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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly opens its 2019-20 season at home on Wednesday night, as the Mustang women's basketball team hosts Fresno State at 7 p.m. in Mott Athletics Center, before heading to Pepperdine for a 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu.
Free season schedule posters will be handed out to Mustang fans at the Nov. 6 home opener.
Joined by a class of six newcomers, Cal Poly welcomes to the floor redshirt junior forward Sierra Campisano (who joined the Mustangs with two years of eligibility after transferring in from Oregon) to the court this winter, along with returning eight letterwinners, plus two activated redshirt freshmen.
Additionally, Cal Poly brings back its leading scorer in senior forward Hana Vesela, who ranked 12th throughout the Big West with 11.2 points per game upon joining the squad mid-season in 2019 from Michigan State.
Also back is sophomore guard Maddie Willett — a 2019 Big West All-Freshman Team selection — who ranked No. 9 in the conference in 3-point shooting (at .342 while averaging 6.2 points) and made 17 starts as a true freshman out of Gig Harbor, Wash. In addition, grad forward Alicia Roufosse also ranked among the Top 15 throughout the conference in two categories a year ago, averaging 5.5 rebounds (14th) and shooting 44.5 percent overall (11th) as a nominee for 6th Woman of the Year.
14 HOME GAMES HIGHLIGHT '19-20 CAL POLY SCHEDULE: Cal Poly's 2019-20 schedule includes 14 home games, highlighting a 27-game slate featuring opponents from nine different conferences comprising non-league play.
"Our preseason schedule prepares us well for many of the styles of play that we see in conference play. While no other opponent we face plays the Grinnell system of five-out, five-in, pressing game of Sacramento State; UCI, CSF and Long Beach State all employ multiple press defenses," Mustang head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. "Other teams were selected for their offensive style of play or physical size or rebounding acumen that mimics our conference foes."
One of the Mustangs' most pressing tasks will be to fill the starting point guard vacancy left by the graduation of Dye Stahley, who ranked 47th nationally in assists (5.0 per game) and 59th in the country in steals (2.3), leading the Big West in both categories.
"It is impossible for us to replace a one-woman defensive wrecking crew like Dye Stahley," Mimnaugh added. "Her leadership, savvy and toughness are rare and led to her being deservedly named two-time Big West Hustle Player of the Year."
Following a 2018 season in which the Mustangs finished second in the Big West standings at 11-5 (17-12 overall) — earning a double-bye to the semifinals of the Big West Tournament at the Honda Center with the runner-up finish — Cal Poly came in ninth place last year at 6-21 overall; 3-13 in-conference.
SCOUTING FRESNO STATE: The Bulldogs went 19-13 overall a year ago, including an 11-7 mark in Mountain West Conference play. The first of three consecutive 2019 WNIT participants Cal Poly will face right out of the gate, Fresno State is led by junior forward Maddi Utti, a Mountain West All-Defensive selection a year ago.
In addition to Utti (who averaged 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals & 1.1 blocks last year), the Bulldogs saw Haley Cavinder, a freshman point guard, earn a Preseason All-MWC nod on Oct. 31. Utti shot 56.5 percent from the floor in 2018-19, ranking 22nd in the country for field-goal accuracy.
Fresno State won last year's matchup between the two, 76-58 at the Save Mart Center on Nov. 14, to improve to 26-10 against the Mustangs all-time. The Bulldogs hosted Fresno Pacific for an exhibition on Nov. 1, winning 96-67.
A LOOK AT PEPPERDINE: The Waves finished 12-6 in the WCC a year ago; 22-12 overall, en route to the third round of the WNIT.
Pepperdine played Biola in an open exhibition on Oct. 29, winning 77-49, led by Paige Fecske with a 26-point effort in a return back from a season-ending injury last year. Meanwhile Deezha Battle added nine points.
Pepperdine won the previous matchup between the two last year on Nov. 24: 70-63 on the road to move to 14-7 historically against Cal Poly.
#SHARESLO HOLIDAY BEACH CLASSIC SET FOR LATE NOVEMBER: Cal Poly will host its 13th annual Thanksgiving tournament, the #ShareSLO Holiday Beach Classic, from Nov. 29-30.
The full schedule for the event, which again features free admission to all fans, is as follows:
12 noon — Old Dominion @ Cal Poly
2:30 p.m. — Idaho vs. Lamar
12 noon — Old Dominion vs. Idaho
2:30 p.m. — Lamar @ Cal Poly
"Our Thanksgiving tournament hosts some talented teams that we have either never played or haven't played in many years. I'm veteran enough to remember when Idaho was in the Big West Conference and dominated the eastern half of the league," Mimnaugh added.
Old Dominion, 21-11 a year ago, returns a pair of All-Conference USA guards in Victoria Morris (Second Team) and Ajah Wayne (All-Freshman & All-Defensive). Meanwhile Lamar is led by the 2018 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year, Jadyn Pimentel. Idaho, also playing each day in the neutral-court games, was the 2019 Big Sky regular-season champion, as point guard Gina Marxen won the BSC Freshman of the Year award.
A LOOK AROUND THE CONFERENCE: Big West play begins on Thursday, Jan. 9 at Long Beach State (led by the conference's 2019 Freshman of the Year, Justina King) before the conference home opener on the Central Coast, set for Saturday, Jan. 18 vs. UC Irvine (featuring an all-conference first-team honoree as a sophomore, forward Jordan Sanders).
Defending Big West champion UC Davis comes to Mott on Saturday, Jan. 25. The Aggies graduated WNBA draft pick Morgan Bertsch but still return an all-conference honorable mention in their frontcourt, senior Nina Bessolo.
Following the 16-game conference schedule, which concludes March 7 in Honolulu for a regular-season finale against Hawai'i, the 37th annual Big West Tournament will be held from March 10-14. Long Beach will host the initial two days for first-round and quarterfinal action inside Walter Pyramid, before the conference tournament moves to Anaheim for the semifinals and then the Big West Championship Game, all on the WatchESPN network.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Mustang tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
A finalized schedule for season-long promotions, giveaways and campus/community events inside Mott Athletics Center, where the Mustangs are 104-47 (.689) since 2008, will be announced soon.
Families are encouraged to sign up for the Mustang Kids Club ($10 per child 8th-grade-or-under), as over $300 in benefits include ongoing free admission to all 2019-20 regular-season soccer, volleyball, wrestling & women's basketball events along with select football, men's basketball and baseball games; plus invitations to exclusive events; opportunities to be an honorary captain at Mustang home games; a birthday card from Musty; free gelato at SLO Sweets every month (along with birthday scavenger hunts) and a T-Shirt.
Cal Poly students always get into games for free, and are also invited to join the Stang Gang. Stang Gang, Cal Poly's student fan group, features several rewards for a $10 one-time lifetime registration fee, including prizes from sponsors such as Adidas, Amazon, Breakfast Buzz, Eureka Burger, Frank's Famous Hot Dogs, Mr. Pickles, Old San Luis BBQ, SLO Sweets, Splash Café, Visa and Woodstock's Pizza, a member T-shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking-in at games.
Photos © David E. Holmes / Owen Main / Nathan Nybakke
Facebook: Cal Poly WBB
Cal Poly Hosts Fresno State for Opener Wednesday, Visits Pepperdine
COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (PDF)