This is not the start that the UCSB women’s basketball team envisioned.

Already short-handed due to sophomore forward Jessica Combs’ abrupt decision to leave the team, Santa Barbara (1-2) received more disheartening news when it learned that freshman guard Karena Bonds will be out of action until at least mid-January due to a broken hand. Bonds apparently broke the hand in an off-court accident in the Santa Rosa dorms.

In addition to losing Bonds, the Gauchos may also be without junior point guard Debby Caine this Thursday against Ohio State. Caine suffered a concussion in another off-the-court mishap. Freshman forward Hillary Jager, who sat out practice on Monday with a calf injury, is also questionable for the Gauchos’ next game.

If Caine, a two-year starter, is unable to go, freshman guard Mia Fisher would be her likely replacement in the starting lineup.

“I though about [the possibility of starting] today at practice,” Fisher said. “But our team is so deep, so I just hope I can contribute when I get out there. But Debby’s tough – she may still play.”

However, even when fully healthy the Gauchos have not performed up to expectations this season. After a victory in its first game of the year, the Gauchos have dropped back-to-back games to ranked opponents. Santa Barbara’s first setback came against then #9 Stanford, followed by a hard-fought 76-73 loss to #23 Penn State in the Gauchos’ home opener.

UCSB, albeit short-handed, hits the road tomorrow for a pair of non-conference matchups. First up for Santa Barbara is 2000-2001 Women’s National Invitation Tournament Champion Ohio State. The Gauchos then take on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Though both OSU and UVA promise to give UCSB all it can handle, the Gauchos feel that their last two games have prepared them for the type of competition they will face.