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Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Dye Stahley

Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Dye Stahley

Materials Engineering Major Could Become Big West's 2nd Woman Ever to Lead Conference in Assists and Steals in Same Season

        The same word naturally comes up when Dye Stahley's teammates are asked to describe their senior point guard.

        "Dye is a natural leader," says Devin Stanback. "Dye is one of the best leaders I've ever played with," adds Katie Nunnelley.

        The Big West leader in assists, steals and minutes played, Stahley has risen to the top of all three conference categories despite overcoming a midseason leg injury.

        "She's the heartbeat of our team," Mustang head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. "I think that she just has the strongest mind. If Dye was sick and throwing up, she'd still be on the court. I have no doubt if she had broken fingers, broken toes, she'd still be out there. She's just an incredible competitor."

        At Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 19, Stahley went for a rebound and landed awkwardly, suffering what turned out to be a Grade 1/2 MCL tear in her right knee, along with a hamstring sprain, she recalled.

        After missing the next two games, Stahley returned to the court, hence forth wearing a brace.

        "My adrenaline helps a lot," Stahley explained. "Once I'm out there, I don't really feel it until after the game. It's not going to fully heal until I'm done playing and I can rest and take the time it needs — but for now I'm just trying to maintain it as long as I have the brace on. I can't really hurt it more."

        Since making her comeback, Stahley has played no fewer than 31 minutes, including a 45-minute night against Long Beach State and a 50-minute effort vs. UC Riverside. "I say it's just a mindset," she said. "I try never to tell myself I'm tired or I'm hurting or anything that's, like, negative or going to make me slow down a little."

        Stahley also credits athletic trainer Megan Miyamoto and sports performance director Tim Bayley, as well as adhering to nutritional practices, for adding to her stamina and endurance.

        "I try the best I can to set myself up well especially knowing that Coach Faith needs me out there and my team needs me out there, and I don't want to let them down," she said.

        Stahley is currently averaging 5.2 assists along with 2.3 steals, while scoring 9.6 points per game. If she holds at No. 1 in the conference in assists and steals, she'd become just the second woman in the history of the Big West to lead the league in both for the same year.

        Leilani Mitchell, a future WNBA draft pick, became the first player to achieve that feat while starring for former Big West member Idaho, in both 2004 and 2005, and no one since has finished leading the conference in each category simultaneously in a season.

        Stahley ranks No. 37 nationally in assists and No. 60 in the NCAA for steals, while her 36.9 minutes-played average is 24th across the country.

        Her affinity for defense grew from her days at Dobson (Mesa, Ariz.) High School, she remembered, where she helped lead the squad to a state title.

        "I've always loved playing defense," she said. "I didn't start playing club basketball until I was in high school, but I remember I just loved having the challenge of being on the best player and taking them out of their game. In high school we did a lot of defensive stuff. We didn't really have a lot of huge names in our program, so we were going to have to stop teams by our defense, and our head coach really made an emphasis on not using your hands; just moving your feet, and I think that set me up tremendously for college."

        Those attending Mustang games the past few years know Stahley has a knack for taking charges and drawing a variety of fouls. While individual charges-drawn isn't an officially collected NCAA statistic, Mimnaugh opined that Stahley would rank among the national leaders there as well.

        "If you started calculating charges taken in a game with steals, she would probably be tops in the country in that department," Mimnaugh said. "She's clever and resilient, and she's just pesky. She really understands how it's like a chess game for her, and she knows where the mismatches are. She's been a true diamond defensively." 

        "Her defense is second to none," Nunnelley said. "She's amazing at it and she takes pride in it, and I love her attitude on the court." 

        While her appetite for defense goes back years, after the Mustangs graduated a majority of their scoring from a year ago as part of a seven-player class of seniors including the nation's No. 20 scorer in Dynn Leaupepe, Stahley knew she'd have to take on more scoring responsibilities in addition to distributing in 2018-19.

        "Coach Faith and I really worked on my scoring opportunities and how I could get myself most open for shots and how to get to the basket," she said. "I just worked on that all spring and summer."

        One of Stahley's most memorable performances came on Feb. 6, when she scored 17 points spanning a six-minute, nine-second stretch to lead the Mustangs to a 66-59 overtime comeback win over Long Beach State. She finished with a career-high 23 points in the win, as Cal Poly erased a 53-48 deficit faced with 27 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

        "Just being able to have her as my point guard has been amazing," Stanback said. "I mean, she saves a lot of us on offense and on defense just because she's so smart on the court, and I don't think our team would be the same without her."

        In 11 games this season, Stahley has gone the distance, playing every minute. Five of the complete-game efforts came after sophomore backup point guard Malia Holt also sustained an injury, sidelining her for two months.

        "Having to do what she's done for us offensively, on top of all the things she does defensively, is a testament to what kind of heart that kid has," Mimnaugh commented. "She has a will to win, she has a will to compete, she has a will to be instrumental in helping the team. She could go all day. She was out for obviously two weeks in that stretch with her injury, and you know, nobody comes back from that injury in two weeks' time. It's at least a four-to-six week injury, and so her even being on the court, she's just one of if not the toughest-nosed kid I've ever coached. That's true grit."

        Majoring in Materials Engineering, Stahley has career aspirations in textiles, perhaps with athletics apparel or shoe companies. Calling her team a family, Stahley will be honored Saturday for Senior Day at about 1:50 p.m., some 10 minutes before tipoff, as the Mustangs celebrate their trio of upcoming graduates.

        "She takes the same level of tenacity on the court into her schoolwork," Mimnaugh said. "I'm just so proud of who she is as a person, what kind of competitor she is and how she approaches everything in her life."

Photos © David E. Holmes / Owen Main / Nathan Nybakke

        Cal Poly returns to Mott Athletics Center at 2 p.m. Saturday to host CSUN for Senior Day. 

        March 2 against the Matadors will also be a Poly Play Day at Mott, as kids are invited to an annual pregame carnival at 12:30 p.m. in the Stampede Club Tent, followed by free admission for youth 13-and-under. There will also be a prize raffle during Saturday afternoon's game (with proceeds benefitting Jack's Helping Hand), with the grand-prize winner announced at halftime.