SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Coming off another record-breaking year, the Sacramento State Women's Basketball teams enters the 2016-17 with its most experienced squad under fourth-year head coach Bunky Harkleroad.
The regular season opener is one month from today, Nov. 11 at San Francisco. The Hornets will play two home exhibition games before that, however, hosting Holy Names on Oct. 30 and San Francisco State on Nov. 6.
The team features six seniors and five juniors, most of whom have been a big part of Sacramento State's tremendous success in the short tenure of Harkleroad. The 2015-16 squad won a Big Sky Tournament game for the fourth time in the last five seasons after the program had never won a tournament game prior to the 2011-12 year.
Sacramento State ended the 2015-16 season winning seven of nine games before narrowly falling to Eastern Washington in the Big Sky Tournament quarterfinals. After another challenging non-conference schedule the Hornets had a winning record in Big Sky play for the third time in the last four years.
For the third consecutive season Sacramento State led NCAA Div. I in 3-pointers made and steals per game. The team finished second in the nation, behind only national champion UConn, scoring a program-record 87.5 points per game, and also led Div. I in offensive rebounds and turnovers forced per game.
The team shattered the NCAA single game record for made 3-pointers as well, hitting 25 threes in two different games after no team had ever made more than 22 3-poiners in a game. Sacramento State made 20 or more three pointers in four games last season while every other team in NCAA Div. I combined for one such game.
The Hornets return three starters and 10 letter winners but lost five players. Among them was senior Adella Randle-El, who led the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals and was an all-Big Sky first team selection. Sacramento State also lost its top shot blocker in senior Sydonia Daniels but returns top 3-point shooter Brianna Burgos and another stat-stuffer in junior Maranne Johnson.
In all, Sacramento State returns 20 years of combined experience playing under coach Bunky Harkleroad in his high-energy version of "The System", which continues to confound opponents. With 17 players on the roster, the Hornets enter the year with no shortage of minutes and combinations to use on the floor.
Sacramento State has its biggest senior class under Harkleroad with six seniors totaling 12 years of experience as Hornets. Forward Margaret Huntington is the longest tenured Hornet, having spent five years with the team after redshirting as a true freshman. Huntington enters her senior season ranked seventh in program history with 586 career rebounds and shot 58.4% during her junior season, the third highest field goal percentage in a season in program history.
Brianna Burgos has spent three seasons with the Hornets after transferring from Sonoma State as a sophomore. She has been among the most lethal shooters in the Big Sky throughout her tenure with a career .368 3-point percentage and last year led the league and ranked eighth in the NCAA making 3.19 threes per game.
Ashlyn Crenshaw is a four-year Hornet contributor and has ranked among the top Hornet guards in field goal percentage while racking up steals with fantastic defense. In two seasons with the Hornets Gretchen Harrigan has been named the Big Sky Top Reserve and Big Sky Honorable Mention while averaging better than 10 points and 4 rebounds per game.
In the post, senior Kyhonta Doughty has been a force in her two seasons since transferring from Junior College national champion Trinity Valley despite battling injuries. The sixth Hornet senior is Emily Easom, who transferred to Sacramento State from Portland State last season and had to redshirt. Easom was a two-time all-Big Sky selection as a Viking and was one of the top scorers and 3-point shooters in the league.
The Hornets have a deep junior class as well headlined by guard Maranne Johnson, who through just two seasons already ranks ninth in program history with 161 career steals. She has been a force offensively as well, averaging 13.1 points while shooting 34.3% from 3-point range with 79 made threes last year. She had eight 20-point games last season and led all returning Hornets with 25 starts last year.
Guard Taylor Brown hit 32 threes last year and had some big scoring games, including a 21-point performance in which she made seven 3-pointers at Northern Arizona. Junior point guard Justyce Dawson ranked second on the team with 76 assists last year and chipped in 3.1 points per game while seeing action in all 31 Hornet contests.
Sophomore guard Raegen Rohn had a solid freshman season in which she played in all 31 games and knocked down 22 threes while dishing 20 assists with a 20-8 assist to turnover ratio. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014-15 Kelli Robinson saw action in two games last season.
The Hornets welcomed six newcomers for the 2016-17 season with three transfers and three freshmen. Six-foot guard Hannah Friend, who made 18 threes and had 19 blocks as a freshman last season at Delaware, will redshirt her first season as a Hornet do to NCAA transfer rules.
Alexia Mefi and Dajhae Mullins are both junior college transfers with two years of eligibility remaining. Mefi helped College of Southern Idaho to a pair of regional championships while averaging 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last year.
Mullins played two years at Trinity Valley CC in Athens, Texas, the same school senior Kyhonta Doughty played for before coming to Sacramento. The versatile guard/forward helped her team to a pair of national top-three finishes and averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds as a freshman.
The Hornets added some significant size with 6-3 forward Kennedy Nicholas joining the team straight out of high school in Washington. Nicholas led her Inglemoor high school team to three conference championships averaging 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game with more than two blocks per contest.
Point guard Tiara Scott comes to Sacramento State after being a three-time all league selection, and league MVP as a junior, while playing at two different high schools in the Los Angeles area. She led North Torrance high school to a pair of conference titles while averaging better than 10 points per game.
Sacramento State added a local product to the roster as well with Sacramento high school point guard Quayonna Harris. After two seasons at Sheldon HS Harris transferred to Sacramento and was a first team all-Metro League selection averaging better than six points and nearly three steals per game as a senior.
The Hornets will play another challenging schedule with 10 games against 2015-16 postseason teams, including three contests against NCAA Tournament teams.
The 29-game regular season schedule is highlighted by a home game against USC on Dec. 3 and a trip to Hawaii to compete in the Bank of Hawaii Classic the weekend before Thanksgiving. The team has nine Big Sky games and six non-conference games at home as well as two home exhibition games for a total of 17 home dates.
The Hornets will play a second game against a Pac-12 team at Cal on Dec. 8 as Sacramento State will play the Bears in Haas Pavilion for the third consecutive season. The Hornets will be facing multiple Pac-12 teams for the fourth straight year.
In November Sacramento State will visit the Hawaiian Islands for the first time since the 2006-07 season. In the four-team Bank of Hawaii Classic in Honolulu the Hornets will not actually face Hawaii, playing neutral site games against defending WAC champion and NCAA Tournament participant New Mexico State on Nov. 18 and against 2016 WBI semifinalist Youngstown State on Nov. 20.
The Hornets open the regular season at San Francisco on Nov. 11 facing a Dons team that went 21-12 last year and won the WCC Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament. Sacramento State hosts Cal Poly and Nevada before the Hawaii trip and returns home to face 2016 WNIT participant Hofstra on Friday, Nov. 25.
Stanislaus State will visit The Nest on Nov. 29 before the USC games on Dec. 3, which will be the second half of a home doubleheader with the Hornet Men's Basketball team. The Hornets will play road games at Cal and UC Irvine before ending the non-conference season hosting Causeway rival UC Davis Dec. 18.
The 18-game Big Sky schedule opens with the Hornets playing at Northern Colorado on Dec. 29 and at North Dakota on New Years Eve. Sacramento State hosts Portland State, Southern Utah, and Northern Arizona to begin the new year.
The Hornets will face defending Big Sky Tournament champion Idaho only once, hosting the Vandals on Feb. 4. The Hornets plays defending regular season Big Sky champion Montana State in Bozeman on Jan. 19 and in The Nest Feb. 18.
Both Weber State and Idaho State will not play in The Nest this year and the Hornets will not have road games at Idaho and Eastern Washington. Sacramento State will play four of its last six Big Sky games at home, ending the regular season hosting North Dakota March 1 and Northern Colorado March 3.
The Big Sky Tournament returns to Reno for the second consecutive season and will begin with First Round games on March 6. Quarterfinals will be played March 8, semifinals take place on March 10, and the championship game will be held on March 11 at the Reno Events Center.