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Chico State women’s basketball team falls short

Sophomore+Natalie+Valenzuela+prevents+her+opponent+from+getting+to+the+basket+in+a+game+against+Simpson+University.+Photo+credit%3A+Jordan+Olesen
Sophomore Natalie Valenzuela prevents her opponent from getting to the basket in a game against Simpson University. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

Sophomore Natalie Valenzuela prevents her opponent from getting to the basket in a game against Simpson University. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

Sophomore Natalie Valenzuela prevents her opponent from getting to the basket in a game against Simpson University. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

Jason Spies

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The Chico State women’s basketball team had high hopes that this would be the year it would get back to its winning ways and put the losing seasons behind. Unfortunately those expectations came up short as the team finished the season with a record of 10-16, missing the playoffs for a second straight year.

Looking Back

After starting the season off strong winning their first four games, the Wildcats looked every bit of the winning team it hoped to be. Head coach Brian Fogel said at times there were flashes of success.

“During the season there were times where I felt we could play with any team in our conference,” Fogel said.

Those flashes didn’t last long as they would go on to lose eight of their next nine games putting them in last place.

The deficit would be too big to climb out of as the Wildcats would continue to struggle, especially in a conference that was so competitive. They ended the season with a conference record of 5-15 and a road record of 2-10.

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First-year Irie Stokes leads the offense in front of a packed house against Cal Poly Pomona. Photo credit: Jacob Auby

“When you look at the top teams in our conference they were all very senior-laden teams,” Fogel said. “Us being a young team is still no excuse whatsoever, we just didn’t play as well as we would have liked.”

Coming into this year Chico State had one lone senior Brooke Bowen, four juniors, five sophomores and three first-years.

Leading scorer and sophomore guard Whitney Branham thinks that the effort in practice was a big reason for the team’s lack of success.

“We had some bad practice days which led to bad offensive execution on game days,” Branham said. “Then we would be down by a lot in games and panic. When that happened the teams would bury us.”

Even though this season didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to, there is a lot of positives they can build on going into next year.

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Sophomore Whitney Branham launches a shot in a game against Simpson University. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

Moving Forward

The one thing that the Wildcats will have on their side going into next season is experience. Four of their starting five will be returning next year and they will have a lot more experience.

“We have built a chemistry with each other on and off the court that will continue to grow,” Branham said. “That experience playing with each other will help us a lot next year.”

The Wildcats were able to give valuable playing time to some of their younger players. First-year McKena Barker and sophomore Natalie Valenzuela were the primary beneficiaries and they made the most of their opportunities.

“The growth of Natalie and McKena was nice to see,” Fogel said. “They now have the experience of what it’s like to play in such a competitive and tough conference.”

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First-year McKena Barker embraces a teammate after being taken out of the game against Cal Poly Pomona. Photo credit: Jacob Auby

One of the pieces that will be dearly missed is Bowen, who played in her final season at Chico State.

“It’s been an incredibly fun and humbling experience for me,” Bowen said. “I’ve made some lifelong friends here and the community, coaches and players have all been amazing.”

In her final season Bowen was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 8.2 points per game. Bowen was also second on the team in most field goals at 92, and averaged 3.2 field goals per game.

Bowen believes that next year’s team will be great and leaves a piece of advice going into the new season.

“I told them they will get it figured out next year, and they will be great,” Bowen said. “As long as they stay together as a team through the good and the bad.”

Jason Spies can be reached at [email protected] or @Jason_Spies on Twitter.

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Chico State women’s basketball team falls short