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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — The Cal Poly women's basketball program announced its 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, featuring 13 home games.
The Mustangs return seven letterwinners from last year's squad that finished second in the Big West standings at 11-5 en route to a semifinals appearance at the conference tournament, going 17-12 overall. They're joined by a recruiting class of 11 newcomers heading into 2018-19.
Among the returning Mustangs, senior point guard Dye Stahley is back after winning the Big West Conference Best Hustle Award as a junior.
Stahley, who has started 53 games over the past two years (making 84 appearances since her freshman year), led the Big West in assist-to-turnover ratio during conference play in 2018, at 2.5-to-1.
Additionally, Stahley ranked fourth in the conference in steals per game (2.0), as well as sixth in assists (averaging 3.6). Now with 102 steals for her career, Stahley helped the Mustangs rank No. 15 in the country for 2017-18 in steals per game as a team, with 11.0.
Also back from the starting lineup is senior center Devin Stanback, who ranked eighth in the Big West in offensive rebounds per game (2.2) last year, in addition to 12th throughout the conference in field-goal percentage (.465) while ranking third on the team in scoring, with 8.2 points per game.
"It's been a great month training this year's squad," Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. "I'm excited about their learning curve and commitment to excellence. We still have quite a journey in front of us as we work towards developing chemistry with so many newcomers, but our leadership is strong and devoted."
The Mustangs will open the season in Mott Athletics Center on Tuesday, Nov. 6, hosting Academy of Art University at 5:30 p.m. The home opener will be the first-ever meeting between Cal Poly and the Urban Knights of San Francisco, members of the PacWest Conference.
Cal Poly then embarks on a four-game road swing, beginning at Oregon State on Nov. 9. The Beavers went 26-8 last year (15-2 in Corvallis) en route to an Elite Eight appearance. OSU junior guard Kat Tudor, an All-Pac-12 honorable mention after averaging 12.0 points in 2017-18, played for the United States at the inaugural FISU America Games in Brazil this past July.
The road trip continues back in California: at Sacramento State on Nov. 11, then Fresno State on Nov. 14 and San Francisco Nov. 18. Fresno State, which returns the Mountain West Conference's leading scorer in senior Candice White (19.3 points per game a year ago), finished 17-15 while advancing to the 2018 WBI quarterfinals, while USF went 16-15 on the way to the semifinals of the WCC Tournament.
Cal Poly will then return to Mott Athletics Center to host the 12th annual ShareSLO Holiday Beach Classic. The schedule for the Thanksgiving weekend tournament — which features free admission for the entire community — is listed below:
Fri., Nov. 23
2 p.m. • Illinois at Cal Poly
4:30 p.m. • Sacramento State vs. Pepperdine
Sat., Nov. 24
2 p.m. • Illinois vs. Sacramento State
4:30 p.m. • Pepperdine at Cal Poly
Illinois returns an All-Big Ten Second Team honoree in senior forward Alex Wittinger, who led the Fighting Illini with 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game a season ago. The Waves, meanwhile, are led by senior forward Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, a back-to-back All-WCC first-team selection after surpassing the career 1,000-point mark (1,060) as a junior.
The Mustangs' home stand will continue with two more matchups, welcoming Eastern Washington on Nov. 28 and Saint Mary's on Dec. 1. EWU, led by senior guard Violet Kapri Morrow (a reigning All-Big Sky third-team pick after scoring 14.7 points per game), advanced to the BSC quarterfinals last March. The Gaels, meanwhile, return a duo of All-WCC senior forwards in Megan McKay (First Team) & Sydney Raggio (Second Team) from their 2017-18 squad that finished 20-11 and made a WNIT appearance.
The Mustangs, who graduated a class of seven student-athletes this past year, will close out non-conference play with two road games against teams that made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, first visiting Seattle U on Dec. 17 and then UCLA on Dec. 28 to wrap up the calendar year.
Seattle, WAC Tournament champions last season (18-15), returns the MVP of its conference tournament, junior guard Kamira Sanders, who averaged 11.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals as a sophomore.
UCLA joined Oregon State in the Elite Eight, and also was 15-2 at home, finishing 27-8 altogether. The Bruins, who had a pair of WNBA draftees last April, return All-Pac-12 honorable mention senior guard Kennedy Burke, along with forward Michaela Onyenwere, a Pac-12 All-Freshman selection in 2017-18.
"Obviously we have some regional challenges on our preseason schedule, as well as a Big Ten challenge in the University of Illinois in our Thanksgiving tournament and two Top 25 teams in Oregon State and UCLA," Mimnaugh said. "We feel that the quality of opponent provides us the best opportunity to prepare for the strength and parity of play in the Big West Conference."
Cal Poly's 11-game non-conference slate features opponents from seven conferences. Big West action will start with back-to-back home games a week apart, against UC Irvine on Saturday, Jan. 5 before UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 12.
Following trips to Long Beach State (Jan. 17) and Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 19), the Mustangs — 99-36 at home (.733) since 2008 — will return to Mott to host Hawai'i on Thursday, Jan. 24 before traveling again to face UCI (Jan. 26) and the Rainbow Wahine (Feb. 2).
Cal Poly will take on LBSU and defending regular-season champion UC Davis at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 9. The Aggies advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT last season. Following games at defending Big West Tournament champion CSUN (Feb. 14) and UC Riverside (Feb. 16), the Mustangs will be back in Mott to face UCR and CSF on Feb. 21 and Feb. 23.
The road edition of the Blue-Green Rivalry with UCSB heads to The Thunderdome on Feb. 27, before Cal Poly hosts Senior Day vs. CSUN at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2. Regular-season play concludes at UC Davis on Wednesday, March 6.
The first round (featuring seeds 5-8) and quarterfinals (adding the No. 3 and 4 seeds) of the 36th annual Big West Tournament will be held from March 12-13 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, before the semifinals and championship game move to the Honda Center in Anaheim for March 15-16.
Cal Poly's recruiting class of 11 newcomers includes Sierra Campisano as a transfer from Oregon (via Torrey Pines High School in San Diego); Alli Hallberg from Wenatchee Valley College in Washington; Kyra Jacks of El Camino Real HS (West Hills, Calif.); Madison Lundquist of Woodinville (Wash.) HS; Rebecca Penner from Moorpark (Calif.) HS; Hannah Peterson via Foothill College (from Leigh HS in San Jose); Alicia Roufosse from the University of San Francisco (via W.J. Mouat Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C.); Gianna Silvestri from Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco; Hana Vesela from Michigan State (Pribor, Czech Republic); Maddie Vick of Chaparral HS in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Maddie Willett of Gig Harbor (Wash.) HS.
Tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.