SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State opens a new era in 2013-14 under the guidance of first-year head coach Bunky Harkleroad. After four-year head coach Jamie Craighead left to assume the head coaching position at San José State, Harkleroad was brought in to the Hornet program to continue the fast paced style of play employed by Craighead as Sacramento State became a contender in the Big Sky Conference.
Under Harkleroad's guidance the Hornets will likely push the tempo even more than in previous seasons, as Harkleroad's Glenville State College team led NCAA Div. II in scoring over the past four seasons and averaged 95.3 points per game last year. The fast-pace, high tempo style that can overwhelm an opponent both physically and mentally has proved to be effective, as Harkleroad enters the year with a 258-123 career record in 13 years as a head coach at the NCAA Div. II and NAIA levels.
Harkleroad inherits a team that returns three starters and six letter winners from its 2012-13 squad that advanced to the Big Sky Championship for the second consecutive season and earned the program's second all-time postseason win. The Hornets finished with a 19-12 record last season to equal the 1990-91 squad for the most wins in a season in program-history.
Alongside Harkleroad will be one familiar face in assistant coach Bill Baxter, who returns for his third season with the Hornets and has helped the team to a 15.4 points allowed per game decrease in just two years with the program. Harkleroad will also be assisted by Kim Stephens, who was a former player and assistant coach with him at Glenville State.
The Hornets return their starting backcourt from a year ago in seniors Alle Moreno and Se'Nyce Parrish and junior Fantasia Hilliard. The three returning starters helped Sacramento State set program records last season in field goals made (842), assists (523), and fewest turnovers (499).
Along with junior Takara Burse, the returning Hornet backcourt features some of the most talented and seasoned guards in the Big Sky Conference. Moreno and Hilliard were both all-Big Sky honorable mention last season, while Moreno enters the 2013-14 season third in program history with 171 career 3-point makes. She has recorded the top-two single season totals in 3-pointers made and attempted and also ranked sixth in the Big Sky last season in steals.
Hilliard is arguably the top point guard in the Big Sky entering her junior year after she led the conference and ranked 21st in the NCAA last season with 5.9 assists per game. She is already fourth in program history in career assists, having set the single-season program record with 184 assists last season, while she also led the team with 76 steals a year ago.
Parrish made 43 three-pointers herself last season to go with 69 steals, and she tied the school record with nine 3-pointers in a 39 point performance against Pac-12 Oregon State last December. Burse has seen her role grow as she enters her third season with the Hornets and will be a key contributor with her athleticism on both ends of the floor for Sacramento State in the coming season.
Several newcomers in the Hornet backcourt should be big contributors as well in 2013-14. Redshirt junior Andrea Chenier will make her debut this season after transferring from New Mexico State, where she played for two seasons. Sonoma State transfer Brianna Burgos joins the program as well as the former Sheldon HS star returners to her home town.
Two freshman guards should also make an impact this season. Gigi Hascheff was named to the USA Today All-USA Nevada State Team as state player of the year last season after she led her Reno HS team to a state championship. From Lincoln HS in Stockton, Ashlyn Crenshaw joins the Hornets after leading her team to a conference title as a senior.
The Hornets are significantly younger in the frontcourt after losing starters Kylie Kuhns and Megan Kritscher and reserve forwards Mallorie Franco and Natasha Torgerson to graduation. Kuhns shattered the school records in career rebounds and steals and finished third in program history in career points while Kritscher broke both school and Big Sky records with 111 blocks last season. Franco and Torgerson were also key contributors off the bench as the Hornets look to replace a superb group of forwards.
The squad does return some frontcourt experience, however, in senior Sadie Clements, who shot 32.9% from 3-point range last season, and junior Shanti Smith, who played in 22 games a year ago. Margaret Huntington will also make her Hornet debut in the frontcourt after redshirting as a freshman last season.
Three newcomers could also see big minutes in the post this season. Hallie Gennett was the Idaho Player of the Year after she led Post Falls HS to a 24-1 record and a state title while averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game.
Teammates from Sacramento HS Breanna Garrett and Casey Williams stay together as they join the Hornets after leading their team to a 27-5 overall record last season. At 6-foot-2 Garrett will be the tallest frontcourt presence for the Hornets this season while the 5-foot-8 Williams has the versatility to play up front and as a wing.
The new-look Hornet squad will play 15 home games and 14 road games during the 2013-14 regular season. A highlight of the non-conference schedule will be a trip to the Pacific Northwest to face PAC-12 schools Oregon State and Oregon for the squad's first road games of the season. The Hornets will also host San Diego State, which advanced to the second round of the Women's NIT, and will face their former coach as Craighead's San José State team will play at The Nest on Dec. 7.
The non-conference schedule will conclude with the annual Causeway matchup at UC Davis on Dec. 28. Sacramento State will play its first four Big Sky games at home, opening against Montana State on Jan. 2 before hosting defending conference champion Montana two days later. With an ensuing home set against Northern Arizona and Southern Utah the following week, the Hornets will play only one road game (at UC Davis) between Nov. 27 and Jan. 16, hosting seven games in The Nest during that span.
The team will play its first conference road games Jan. 16 and 18 at Portland State and Eastern Washington, respectively, to open a stretch of six of eight games on the road to round out the first half of conference play. The Hornets will play in the traditional Thursday-Saturday Big Sky schedule every week of the season, as they are the only conference team that does not have to play any Monday games during Big Sky play.
The Hornets home slate will close on Saturday, March 1 vs. Idaho State before the team will end the regular season at Montana and Montana State. The Big Sky Championship will take place March 13-15 and will be hosted by the regular season conference champion, with the top-seven teams in the final conference standings qualifying for the tournament.