By Jessica Olvera, Assistant Sports Editor
Heading into his fourth year as CSUDH women’s basketball coach, John Bonner believes that continuing to emphasize defense and a winning mentality both on and off the court could elevate the team to a level it hasn’t reached since the Toros glory days of 2013-14 to 2015-16.
While the Toros have reached the playoffs the past two seasons, they haven’t advanced past the first round.
Bonner wants the team to not just get there, but emulate what the Toros did in the last three seasons in former coach Molly Goodenbour’s run: three 20-plus win seasons and three NCAA tournament appearances.
Named interim coach in 2016, this marks Bonner’s third year as the official coach. Wins have increased each year (seven, 13, 14) and their success in the ToroDome the past two seasons (17-11) gave them seventh and fifth-place finishes, good for the California Collegiate Athletic Association Playoffs. To get over that first round hump, the team will have to do so without Nautica Morrow, a two-time All-CCAA first team selection and CSUDH’s female athlete of the year in her two seasons at CSUDH.
The team returns sophomore guard Lea Anderson, who was an All-CCAA Honorable Mention last season, and senior Alisha Henderson. Henderson, a 6 foot 3 inch center from Van Nuys and a two-time All-CCAA Second Team selection, led the CCAA in offensive boards last year, and had the most rebounds in a single game, 23, and tied for third highest, 20, last season.
“All of our players have been really good than where they were before and they can really make an impact,” Bonner said. “Resiliency describes our group the best. In practice, when we challenge them, the players continue to bounce back and they always try to figure out a way to excel beyond an obstacle.”
The Toros are predicted to finish sixth in the CCAA annual coaches preseason poll.
“We always want to get better in all categories,” Bonner said. “I think last year we were last in defense and we need to make some improvements in that area. I think we’ll continue to score the ball at a high rate. It’s just something that we do and get a lot of players in that can fill it up.”
The Toros open up their season against Concordia Irvine on Friday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. and Biola on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3 p.m., with their home opener on Nov. 15 against Bethesda at 11 a.m.