Team carries strong familiarity into new season

While other teams might have been kept down by a tough season, the women’s basketball team at Cosumnes River College has used it as fuel to turn things around.

The Hawks welcome back eight returning players from last year’s roster on a team that went 5-20.

The team and head coach are excited about the group they have and the improvements they’ve worked hard to make for the upcoming season.

Entering her 13th season as the women’s basketball head coach, Coral Sage is excited about having so many returning players.

“It feels amazing. I’ve never had this many sophomores ever, coaching,” said Sage. “The most I’ve ever had was six and it just makes such a huge difference when you have experienced players.”

The experience Sage’s sophomores bring from last season will help the new players by knowing what the program is about and offering guidance whenever it’s needed.

The veteran leadership will come from sophomore small forward Daija Ward, who was the third leading scorer for the Hawks, averaging 10.1 points per game last season.

“This year I hope to contribute more points,” Ward said. With another year under her belt at the college level and as a leader, Ward should be in position for an even stronger season.

While scoring is always important, it’s also key for the Hawks to make improvements defensively. Last season, the team was outscored on average of 10 points a game.

So while Ward wants to contribute even more on the scoring end, her bigger focus is on improving defensively.

“I want to be the one to stop the leading scorer on the other team and limit them as far as they can do against us,” said Ward.

“Then contribute that [scoring] on my end, as far as offense goes,” she said.

After losing its leading scorer, freshman guard Alyna Kanae, to California State University East Bay after she averaged 19.2 PPG last season, the team is looking for someone to step up into the role.

One incoming player who could fill some of that scoring void is freshman shooting guard Trina Shaner, who is looking to contribute to the offensive side of the ball.

“That’s mainly my goal, my position and everything, so I want to be able to score points, shoot shots and help them get more points up on the board,” Shaner said.

Shaner enrolled at Cosumnes River College in hope of receiving a scholarship offer to a four-year university. CRC was the school that had the best fit for her goals to succeed as a athlete.

While success on the court is important to Sage, she is also very adamant that her players achieve success in the classroom.

“The biggest thing about basketball and what’s so great about it is the vehicle for them to get their education,” said Sage. “Ultimately the end game is to get their degree and set themselves up for success in the future.”

As the team prepares for the final weeks before games start, they will have to prepare for a grueling schedule when the season rolls around.

In preseason, they will play three schools that last season were ranked in the the top 15 of the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Basketball rankings.

The Big 8 Conference, the conference that all CRC teams compete in, for women’s basketball is very competitive.

Six out of the other seven conference opponents that the Hawks play in the conference were also ranked in that final top 15 poll by the CCCAA.

Sage’s message to the players focused on one thing,  “Let’s be better.”

Redshirt sophomore forward Akila Britton is ready for a bounce back season. She returns from an injury that sidelined her for most of the last year, after she suffered a torn labrum and pulled every ligament in her ankle.

Britton is ready to get back into action this season and is excited for how well the team is connecting so far.

“It’s a lot better than it has been before. We’re definitely jelling a lot better and we hang out with each other outside of practice,” said Britton. “That definitely helps and it translates on the court really well.”

Last year has developed a team that knows what the coach wants and has plenty of experience in the system.

“They gained from playing so much as freshmen,” said Sage. “You just really want to see that come through and see that okay, you did learn some things last year, and take that progress into making us a better team this year.”

The Hawks’ first game is on Nov. 7 against Siskiyous College at 5 p.m at CRC.