SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State women's basketball team opened practice at 4:30 p.m. Monday ahead of its upcoming 2013-14 season. With three returning starters and an exciting incoming class, the squad is poised to improve upon its Big Sky Tournament Semifinal appearance last season.
"I'm really excited," said senior guard Alle Moreno prior to the first practice of her final collegiate season. " We have some great freshmen that came in and we have some great returners so I'm really excited about this year. I think we're going to be pretty good."
Moreno is one of six returning letter winners that led Sacramento State to a historic 2012-13 year. Last season the Hornets advanced to the Big Sky Tournament for the second consecutive season and, as the No. 5 seed, earned the program's second all-time postseason win with a 73-60 quarterfinal victory over No. 4 seed Idaho State, the defending conference champion.
With a 19-12 record the Hornets equaled the 1990-91 squad for the most wins in a season in program-history while also recording program best season totals in field goals made (842), assists (523), blocked shots (185), and fewest turnovers (499).
Moreno led the conference in 3-pointers (77) and broke the Big Sky record for single-season 3-point attempts. She and junior point guard Fantasia Hilliard, who led the Big Sky and set the program record with 184 assists, garnered All-Big Sky honorable mention awards.
After consecutive Big Sky Tournament appearances, the veterans on the Hornet squad are ready to again take the program to new heights.
"The next step is winning a Big Sky Championship and hosting the tournament," Moreno said. "That's always been one of our goals and I really feel like we have the team to do it this year."
Along with returning starters Moreno, Hilliard, and senior guard Se'Nyce Parrish are five more returners from last year, including letter winners Takara Burse, Sadie Clements, and Shanti Smith, and redshirts Andrea Chenier and Margaret Huntington.
The team did lose five players, including starting forwards and program-record holders Kylie Kuhns and Megan Kritscher, but brings in six newcomers in a strong recruiting class. Five freshmen and one transfer comprise the next wave of Hornets that are excited to get to work and help Sacramento State win a championship.
"The team is awesome and I'm really excited to get on the court and have official practice," freshman guard Gigi Hascheff said. "The seniors are definitely people to look up to and are very motivating, and its nice having a big group of freshmen because we have each other to lean on."
Hascheff is one of two newcomers that led her high school team to a state championship last year, as her Reno high school team won the Nevada state title. Incoming forward Hallie Gennett and her Post Falls high school team won the Idaho state title.
Both Hascheff and Gennett were all-State first team selections and, along with fellow newcomers Brianna Burgos, Ashlyn Crenshaw, Breanna Garrett, and Casey Williams, hope to make an immediate impact in their first collegiate season.
"We know we have to step up because we have so many freshmen," Hascheff said. "I just want to contribute whatever way that is. I'm going to work hard and it's going to be a good test to see what I can do for this team."
That hard work will take place in 30 practice sessions over the next 40 days with just one day off per week. With a roster comprised of six players that have seen game action as Hornets and eight players that have not, every day will be critical to integrate the new squad both on and off the court.
"The captains do a really nice job making sure everybody is serious and practice is always upbeat," Hascheff said. "Everyone works really hard as a team and we are all really good friends so it's awesome."
Sacramento State's preseason training will culminate with a home exhibition game vs. UC Santa Cruz on Nov. 3 before the squad hosts Cal State Northridge to open the regular season Nov. 8.