ST. GEORGE — Dixie State's women's basketball team has only made one trip to the national tournament in team history. But when the Rebels fell short of that goal, head coach Dexter Irvin says it feels like an upset. "I felt we had a team that could go a long way and we proved that at times this season," he said. "I'm very disappointed with the way the season finished."

Irvin, in his fifth year at the helm of Dixie State, recruits his team to win and, in particular, to beat Southern Idaho. The Eagles usually feature size, power and outside shooting. Irvin counters with athleticism and, well, more athleticism.

"We matched up well with CSI and we showed that in beating them earlier in the year," he said. "But we came out in the Region 18 tournament and lost to a team we shouldn't have and never got a chance at Southern Idaho."

The Rebels finished the year 21-10 after dropping a 67-60 decision to Snow College, a team they had beaten three times this season by an average of 10 points. CSI, meanwhile, won the league tourney and finished second at nationals.

Dixie State will lose a big chunk of this year's team. Leading scorers Talita Aguiar (Brazil) and Roshaunda Hall (Las Vegas) will move on as will point guard Lindsey Kame (Grand Junction), forward Chelsea DeLaMare (Kearns) and Charmaine Piula (Snow Canyon). DeLaMare, who averaged eight points and seven rebounds a game, will remain at Dixie State as an assistant and may return if, in fact, Dixie State moves up to Division II in 2006-07. And while the bitter taste remains from the season's abrupt ending, Irvin already is looking to the future by signing a group of (what else?) athletic players for 2005-06.

"I'm very excited about this group," he said. "It's a good mix of Utah kids and Intermountain kids stretching from Idaho to New Mexico." Leading the way amongst the signees are Utah recruits Janael Allen (Copper Hills), Jessica Carver (Layton), twins Lacey and Lindsay Christensen (Uintah), and Tarah Williams (Cedar City). Out-of-state signees include blue chip Las Vegas recruit Shayla Martinez, Idaho's Cora Chandler and Elyse Whitesides, Nevada's Yolonda Johnson and Liz Lewis, and New Mexico's Christy Yazzie.

The newcomers will join six returnees for the Rebels. They are Erin McLean (Pine View), Nicole Blackburn (Wayne County), Jenna Sawyer (Panguitch), Karissa Fernandez (Las Vegas), Lauren Olander (Washington state) and Vivian Scheltinga (Brazil).

As Irvin and Dixie State prepare for the jump to Division II (probably about 16 months from now) the basketball program hopes to gear up.

"We want to be able to compete at whatever level we're playing," he said.