Women’s basketball team makes big season debut

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After its most successful season in four years as a member of the Big West Conference, the CSUN women’s basketball team is back in action against The Master’s College tonight at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.

“We just want to play against people other than ourselves,” said senior star forward Ofa Tulikihihifo. “A lot of us are pretty hungry to start playing.”

CSUN is coming off its best season since 1999-2000. CSUN went 18-11 and finished fourth in the conference with a record of 12-6, earning the program its first-ever trip to the Anaheim Convention Center for the Big West Tournament.

The Matadors defeated UC Riverside 62-58 in overtime before falling to Big West powerhouse UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals.

This year, the expectations are even higher, as the Matadors return all 11 players from last season’s team, including preseason all-conference stand-out Tulikihihifo, who averaged 19 points and nine rebounds last season. The Matadors will also welcome back second leading scorer LaJoyce King, who averaged 12 points per game.

This season will also mark the head coaching debut of Staci Schulz. Schulz took over for last season’s head coach Tammy Holder, who resigned in June to assume the top assistant position at the University of South Carolina.

After spending the last three seasons as Holder’s assistant, Schulz will try to get the team to run more and utilize an up-tempo attack on both offense and defense. Schulz also wants to see how her team reacts when their opponents pressure them.

“I really think our strength is to run,” Schulz said. “I want to make sure our pressure defense in the full court is effective, so I’ll probably test that as much as possible. I also want to be able to test how our offenses will work against pressure defense. Can we still run what we need to run when teams are up in our face?”

The Master’s College is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I school in Santa Clarita, and it is a member of the Golden State Athletics Conference.

The Master’s College has featured a solid women’s basketball program since joining the GSAC in 2001. In 2005, The Master’s College went 26-6, finished third in the GSAC with a record of 17-3 and advanced beyond the first round of the NAIA tournament.

However, The Master’s College lost its two All-Americans, Tiffany Webb and Amy Van Doesburg, but will return 10 players from last year’s team, including Kinsley Mittel and Grace Tappe.

Mittel, a 5-foot-8 junior, averaged 11.8 points last year, and Tappe, a 5-foot-6 senior, averaged eight points and four rebounds.

The Matadors will start the season with a minor setback, as Tulikihihifo suffered a stress fracture of her left tibia early last week during practice. Tulikihihifo is currently wearing a special boot and is expected to miss both of CSUN’s exhibition games. However, she could return in time for the start of the regular season.

CSUN’s will play host to Love and Basketball on Nov. 14 for the team’s second exhibition game at the Matadome at 7 p.m. CSUN will then tip off its regular season at the Matadome against BYU on Nov. 19 at 12 p.m.

Ivan Yeo can be reached at ivan.yeo.80@csun.edu.