Gaucho fans will have their first chance to see the UCSB women’s basketball team in action this Sunday when Santa Barbara tips off against Czech club team Strakonice at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.
Big West coaches and a media poll both selected Santa Barbara to finish first in the Big West in what would be an unprecedented 10th consecutive Big West title. Senior forward Kristen Mann was a preseason All-Big West selection.
Although the Gauchos are not currently ranked nationally, they appeared in the “Others Receiving Votes” section of the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Preseason Top-25 Coaches’ Poll and are hot off the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance and a summer Australian tour, in which UCSB finished 5-0, winning four of the five games by an average of 30 points.
Tonight UCSB will host Strakonice for an exhibition game that will not show up on its record, which gives Head Coach Mark French an opportunity to fully empty his bench.
“That will be one of our goals,” French said. “Everybody will play to get an evaluation of where some of our younger players are who haven’t competed at the college level yet, and also to see where some of our veterans are.”
French will send guards junior Karena Bonds and senior Mia Fisher, senior forwards Brandy Richardson and Mann, and sophomore center Jenna Green out to center court for the start.
Due to injury, four players will not figure into Santa Barbara’s game plan. Freshman guards Jessica Wilson and Ana Onaindia are out with a knee injury and a muscle pull, respectively. Guard Courtney Young, a junior transfer, is still recovering from knee surgery, and freshman center Kat Suderman is questionable with what could be a pulled quad. The six remaining Gauchos will see playing time.