With their first game less than a week away, the CSU East Bay women’s basketball team is looking to piggy back off of last season’s success and turn it into a top four finish in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
The Pioneer women are coming off a season where they finished seventh in conference with a 12-17 overall record and a 9-13 record in conference, which was good enough for them to make the CCAA Championships, where they lost by three points to the eventual tournament champion CSU Monterey Bay.
The Pioneers return eight players from last season’s seventh place team and will look heavily for production from their top two returners in senior forward Marlene McMillian and sophomore guard Mikah Walker.
In addition to the returners, head coach Suzy Barcomb also brought in six new players, headed by San Jose State transfer junior guard Rachel Finnegan and Eastern Washington University transfer sophomore guard Meaghan Cichoke, along with local product from Ohlone College, Sabrina Swayzer.
The three first time freshmen that will be debuting for the Pioneer women this season are guard LeAnne Willingham, guard Tori Breshers and forward Candace Akaigbe, which will hopefully blend talent with experience.
“We have a solid core returning. And with the recruiting class we brought in, we really hope we added to our guard depth,” Barcomb said.
McMillian led the team last season in scoring (9.2), rebounding (9.8), blocks (26), steals (47) and minutes played (884) and will be the main focal point of Barcomb’s four out read and react offense.
Walker was the CCAA freshman of the year last season and was second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game and led the team with two assists a game.
“I think it’s pretty easy to say we’re going to go through Marlene and Mikah,” Barcomb said.
While Barcomb is expecting her two best players to produce, she believes in order for her team to have success they need a balanced scoring attack as opposed to Walker and McMillian being the only threats offensively.
“I’m a coach that truly just believes that we don’t need two people scoring,” she explained. “I would rather have six and seven and eight people dropping in eight to 10 points than one person who is going to score 20.”
In order for Barcomb to have a successful offense, she is going to need her team to cut back on turnovers, which is one of the goals she hopes her team attains this season.
Last season the Pioneers averaged an astounding 18.9 turnovers per game which was double the amount of assist they averaged a game with 9.2.
What Barcomb hopes will happen is her team improves defensively as well, which will hopefully produce offense from defense.
“It’s pretty obvious I am a defensive minded coach but we have to be able to score,” Barcomb said.
The wildcard for the Pioneers according to Barcomb will be the play of senior guard Lauren (Lu) Lucchesi who was third on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game.
Barcomb believes the play of one of her senior leaders is key because she in many ways paces the team.
“We need Lu (Lauren) to produce […] and it has to be consistent and I think it’s vital to our success,” Barcomb explained.
While finishing in the top four in conference is an attainable goal, there is a five game stretch in February that will make or break the season for the Pioneer women.
After hosting Cal State Dominguez Hills, the Pioneers will travel on the road for a five game stretch that will last 14 days.
Defending CCAA regular season champion UC San Diego, who was ranked 10th in the USA Today poll at the end of last season, will be awaiting the Pioneers as well as top three finishers Cal Poly Pomona and Humboldt State.
Along with competing athletically, for the 2012-2013 campaign to be a success for CSUEB, Barcomb believes finishing top 25 nationally academically is just as important along with players receiving individual accolades for their on-the-court success.
“We have the potential to stay exactly at seventh, or move up higher,” Barcomb said. “I think it’s safe to say we want to advance further than we did last year, because that’s your measuring stick.”
This entry was published in The Pioneer Online on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 2:28 pm.