Expectations high for women’s hoops

California+State+University%2C+Bakersfield+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+member%2C+Lunden+Reliford%2C+keeps+her+gaze+on+the+ball+at+practice+on+October+30+in+the+student+recreation+center.

California State University, Bakersfield women’s basketball team member, Lunden Reliford, keeps her gaze on the ball at practice on October 30 in the student recreation center.

California State University, Bakersfield women’s basketball team member, Brittany Simms, watches out for the ball during practice on October 30 in the student recreation center.
California State University, Bakersfield women’s basketball team member, Brittany Simms, watches out for the ball during practice on October 30 in the student recreation center.

By Esteban Ramirez
Assistant Sports Editor

With the coaches and media polls having California State University, Bakersfield women’s basketball team as the favorites to take the Western Athletic Conference for the first time in school history, the expectations are at an all-time high for the ’Runners this season.

The ’Runners finished 19-12 overall and 12-4 in the WAC last year. They finished second in the conference behind University of Idaho (25-9, 15-1 WAC), and that success led to the first ever Women’s National Invitational Tournament appearance for the ’Runners.

“We’re working harder,” said CSUB coach Greg McCall on the team trying to build off last year’s success. “They are hungrier because our goal is in sight. Our goal is to get to the NCAA tournament, and not just get in but also win the NCAA tournament.

“Teams are probably feeling like they’re coming after us since we are number one, but really they’re in our way because it’s our goal is to get to the NCAA tournament.”

CSUB will start its season with a home opener against Air Force Academy on Nov.14 at 7 p.m.

“We worked so hard to put ourselves in this position, so it wasn’t like we were surprised that we got picked number,” said McCall. “We knew that this was the position we wanted to be in, and we worked hard to get ourselves there. [Therefore] it hasn’t been hard to get them to focus on this year because they earned that. It wasn’t a shock that we’re number one.”

Some of the key new players for the ’Runners are: 6-foot junior guard Lunden Junious-Reliford from Los Angeles Valley College, 6-foot-1 junior forward Hali Ford from Moberly Area Community College in St. Louis, Mo., 6-1 sophomore forward Tylinn Carter from San Diego and 6-foot freshman guard Airica Carmon from Long Beach.

The key returning players for CSUB are: 5-8 red-shirt senior guard Tyonna Outland, who was last year’s WAC Player of the Year as she averaged 20.7 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game; 6-2 junior forward Batabe Zempare, who averaged 8.2 points per game and led the team with 10.6 rebounds; 5-9 red-shirt senior guard Dajy Vines, who averaged nine points and 3.8 rebounds and 5-2 junior guard Alyssa Shannon, who averaged 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds last year.

McCall said that the strength of this team is its attacking nature on offense, but the defense is also much more improved.

“We have some good players with a lot of experience that love to attack the rim a lot,” he said. “They like to attack the paint, which causes a lot of problems for other teams. We’re so much better on defense. That’s the one area we are so much better than last year. We still can score. We still have a lot of great scorers on the floor, but defensively, we’re so much better. The help-side defense is the one area we are continuing to get better.”

Outland commented on the start of a new season.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “We have been working really hard since December, it’s our first summer here as a team, and we’re ready to put everything against other opponents. We’re more versatile at the guard spots and we have people that can be interchangeable in the post, in the four spots or in the guard spots.

“We had a good chance of making the NCAA [tournament] last year winning the WAC, but this year we need to finish the job from last year.”