SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After less than three weeks practicing with their new coach, The Sacramento State women's basketball team will hit the floor at 2 p.m. Sunday to host UC Santa Cruz in the Nest. The game will be the lone exhibition contest for the Hornets before their regular season opener next Friday vs. Cal State Northridge.
General admission for Sunday's contest will be $5 for all fans. Those unable to make the game can listen live online on HornetSports.com/Radio.
The preseason is always important for returning players and newcomers to learn to play together, but this preseason has been especially critical for the Hornets as they adjust to the new coaching staff led by head coach Bunky Harkleroad. The squad had a scrimmage as part of its preseason practice schedule and is looking to build off that performance and continue to build familiarity with each other.
"We want to see improvement from our scrimmage," Harkleroad said. "It was a good start, but we want to correct the mistakes that we had. We want to foul less, we want to make better decisions with the basketball, and we want to rebound the ball better."
Sunday's game is a big part of the learning process, as the squad will have just four more practice sessions after the exhibition game before the season tips off in The Nest next Friday.
"We just want to keep moving forward," Harkleroad said. "Our team has done a great job these first few weeks since we've all been together, and they've been getting better every day. We need to keep that trend going. Every day is preparation, and this game is a big opportunity for us because we have limited opportunities to put it all together and play in real games."
Harkleroad inherited a team stacked with talent and experience, led by returning starting guards Fantasia Hilliard, Alle Moreno, and Se'Nyce Parrish. The Hornets have six total returning letter winners from their 2012-13 squad along with two returning redshirts and six newcomers, including five true freshmen.
In Harkleroad's system, every member of the Hornets will likely see significant playing time throughout the year. The high-octane style relies on quick shots, including many three-point attempts, frequent substitutions, and aggressive defense. Sacramento State may not be the biggest or strongest team on the floor on a given night, but they undoubtedly will be the best conditioned, both physically and mentally.
It's a difficult system to learn and adapt to, especially in a short amount of time, but Harkleroad has been extremely pleased with how quickly his team has learned and improved.
"We have seen phenomenal improvements," added Harkleroad. "That said, we still have a long way to go and we'll never be totally satisfied, but they are really getting better every day and even in the little things they are showing huge improvements. They've come a long way in just a few weeks and that really excites me."
The Hornets are looking to build off a 19-12 record last season in which they tied the single season program record for wins. They also won the second postseason game in program history and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Sky Tournament. Hilliard, Moreno, and Parrish were three of the team's top four scorers a season ago as Sacramento State was the highest scoring team in the Big Sky again last season.
UC Santa Cruz went 14-10 last season, recording the first winning record in program history. An independent NCAA Div. III school, the Banana Slugs returned their entire roster from a season ago, as the 2012-13 team had no seniors. Junior forward Sarah Mackey and senior guard Ryane Ortiz were Div. II Independent all-Conference team selections a year ago.