With a 14-16 overall record last year, including 9-7 in the ultra-competitive Big West, the Pacific Tigers women’s team was good enough for fourth place in the conference. But for third-year Coach Lynne Roberts and Chico State transfer Amber Simmons, that won’t be enough.
Coach Roberts, who turned a mediocre team into a conference title contender in just her second year on the job, has high hopes for the current season.
“This year’s conference is going to be extremely competitive,” Roberts said. “I certainly hope that we will be in the hunt for a top spot come March, but there are so many competitive teams and the parity in the league is the best it’s been in my three years in the Big West.”
To help her with those ambitions are players like senior forward Janae Young and senior Amber Simmons, who leads the team with four double-doubles so far this year and is helping to fill the void left by the graduation of starter Kelsey Lavender.
“I think our opponents will key on Amber Simmons and Janae Young,” Roberts said. “They will most likely put up the most scoring numbers and command some attention defensively. I anticipate Amber making a big impact.”
Last year as a junior at Chico State, Simmons received her second straight First Team All-West Region selection with 16.6 points per game and 8.4 rebounds while shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
Janae Young is also a senior forward, transferring to the team from nearby Delta Junior College. In her first season with the Pacific Tigers, she established herself as the best player on the floor, averaging 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, both of which led her team. The pairing of Simmons and Young will undoubtedly be a major point of concentration for opposing teams, but Coach Roberts maintains that the team’s real strength lies in its depth.
“I think our strength is in our depth and in our player’s knowing and accepting their different roles,” Roberts said. “That acceptance is what will determine our program’s success. I sincerely do believe our strength is our depth and work ethic.”
Pacific features four players averaging more than 8 points per game, even more than conference-leading UCSB. For the Tigers, the goal is to keep up that even attack and continue to improve.
“Considering that Pacific had finished last in the previous four big west seasons, a fourth place finish was good for us last year,” Roberts said. “Nine wins were more than the previous three seasons combined. Going into our season, we set that goal for ourselves – to be in the top four. We felt that goal was a challenge, but attainable. Considering everything, I feel like 4th was a very good season for us last year.”
Even though they have vastly improved over the last few seasons, they are still looking to work on the problems the team still have. In their thirteen games this season, they have won every home game, but have yet to find victory on the road. They will no doubt continue to work on these shortcomings, especially when they come to UCSB on Jan. 24 to try to take out the best in the conference.
“Certainly it’s not good enough – nor is it where we ultimately strive to be,” Roberts said. “But building a winning program takes time to do correctly and I feel like we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”