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When it comes to leadership, BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins can rest easy.

The Cougars return three starters as well as a handful of players who saw valuable time off the bench from last season's 26-7 NCAA Tournament team.

This includes the undisputed BYU leader, All-West Coast Conference point guard Haley Steed, who, due to a combination of years lost to injury, enters her sixth season in the Cougar program.

However, Judkins is not taking anything for granted, especially a preseason poll that has BYU narrowly defeating Gonzaga for the WCC Championship.

In 2012, BYU won 20 or more games under Judkins for the sixth time in his 10 seasons, the 26 wins tying for most ever under his regime. The Cougars finished second in their first WCC season, capturing the tournament title.

"There's a lot of things that we need to work on as we prepare for the season," Judkins said. "Our league will be very competitive this year, with many schools returning their top players, so every game is going to be critical if we want to finish at the top."

The Cougars' schedule includes nine teams that participated in postseason play last year.

BYU began play Friday with an 80-55 win vs. visiting Weber State at the Marriott Center.

"This is a very competitive schedule that should help us with our RPI and give us an edge to getting into the postseason NCAA Tournament," Judkins said.

Joining Steed among the returning starters are guard Kim Parker Beeston and WCC Newcomer of the Year Lexi Eaton. Steed and Eaton were named to the preseason all-conference team, as was Jennifer Hamson, the Cougars' 6-foot-7 post who won't be able to give the team her full participation until the school's volleyball team finishes play in December.

BYU schedule

Friday • BYU 80, Weber St. 55

Nov. 12 • at Dartmouth, 4 p.m.

Nov. 15 • Boston College, 4 p.m.

Nov. 16 • Harvard, TBA

Nov. 20 • Arizona, 10 a.m.

Nov. 24 • Washington State, , 3 p.m.

Nov. 28 • Creighton, 2 p.m.

Dec. 4 • Utah State, 6 p.m.

Dec. 8 • Utah, 2 p.m.

Dec. 15 • Tulsa, 1 p.m.

Dec. 18 • UCSB, 1 p.m.

Dec. 20 • Seattle University, 2 p.m.

Dec. 29 • Western New Mexico, 3p.m.

Jan. 5 • San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Jan. 10 • San Diego, 7 p.m.

Jan. 12 • Pepperdine, 1 p.m.

Jan. 17 • Gonzaga, 6 p.m.

Jan. 24 • Loyola Marymount, 6 p.m.

Jan. 26 • San Francisco, 2 p.m.

Jan. 31 • Saint Mary's, 6 p.m.

Feb. 2 • Santa Clara, 2 p.m.

Feb. 7 • San Diego, 6 p.m.

Feb. 9 • Saint Mary's, 2 p.m.

Feb. 14 • Santa Clara, 6 p.m.

Feb. 16 • Pepperdine, 2 p.m.

Feb. 21 • Portland, 6 p.m.

Feb. 23 • Gonzaga, 1 p.m.

Feb. 28 • Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m.

March 2 • Portland, 2 p.m.

March 6-11 • WCC Tournament at Las Vegas

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