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Originally published March 13, 2012 at 7:40 PM | Page modified March 14, 2012 at 7:10 PM

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Huskies excited about WNIT opportunity

After four consecutive losing seasons, the Huskies (17-13) will make their first appearance since 2004 in the WNIT when they host Cal Poly Wednesday at Edmundson Pavilion.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Wednesday

Cal Poly @ Washington, 7 p.m.

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There was a yelp. Mackenzie Argens couldn't help it.

She has experienced postseason play before, advancing with the Washington Huskies to the inaugural Women's Basketball Invitation in 2010. And she grew up watching the Huskies receive the more traditional NCAA and Women's NIT berths.

The senior's reaction on Monday when she learned her team was returning to the WNIT?

"I did a little bit of screaming," she admitted. "I was just really excited."

Washington (17-13) hosts Big West regular-season champ Cal Poly (17-14) at Edmundson Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. It's the Huskies' first appearance since 2004 in the 15-year-old tournament, and their fourth overall. UW is 4-3 all-time in the WNIT.

In 2010, Washington lost in the second round of the 16-team WBI under former coach Tia Jackson. In 2007, UW lost in the opening round of the NCAA tournament under former coach June Daugherty.

Argens has finals this week, but found time for some basketball study, too.

"After finding who our opponent is and our future potential (WNIT) opponents, I definitely did some research," she said.

Washington could host a rematch against Utah (15-15) this weekend if the Utes defeat Utah State (21-9) in their opener and the WNIT awards the Huskies another home game. Utah defeated UW in an overtime heartbreaker in January.

Argens and her classmates are leading Washington's run to postseason play. The Huskies have won four of their past six games.

Argens and senior reserve Mollie Williams have provided rebounding, senior guard Charmaine Barlow has been solid defensively and senior center Regina Rogers averages a team-leading 16.3 points on 60.7 percent shooting.

The team's growth after an inauspicious 69-68 season-opening loss to UC Davis is why first-year coach Kevin McGuff looks forward to the postseason. He led his former Xavier team to nine consecutive postseason appearances, advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2010.

"Having been in postseason play myself in the past, I know it's a special opportunity and it's just something I really wanted our seniors to experience," said McGuff, who has coached Washington to its first winning season in five years.

Cal Poly will test UW's defense, which holds opponents to 60.2 points per game. The Mustangs average 71.8. Mustangs post Kristina Santiago ranks sixth in the country in scoring (23.3) and leads her team in rebounding (10.1).

Cal Poly assistant Kari Duperron is a former UW assistant under Jackson. She played for Mustangs coach Faith Mimnaugh from 1999 to 2003.

After consecutive losing records the previous four seasons, the WNIT is a chance for Huskies seniors to end their careers the way they imagined when they signed to play at UW.

"This is one of the best feelings I've had," Williams said of the postseason berth. "This is the time we're usually getting ready for spring break. Now that we're able to have practice and get ready for a tournament ... it's exciting."

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JaydaEvans

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