Two difficult-to-measure qualities--experience and maturity--will make the difference for the Cal State Fullerton women's basketball team this season.
They'll have to. Hardly anything else has changed.
These Titans are all but indistinguishable from last year's team. They have every starter back and return 10 players from a squad that finished 12-16.
They lost only three players--all deep reserves--and have only one player new to the team, freshman Eugenia Miller, a 6-foot 3-inch center.
Coach Maryalyce Jeremiah is hoping that added experience and maturity will be enough to make the difference between a losing season and a winning one.
Last year, just a handful of one-point and two-point losses came between the Titans and a .500 record. Then again, several close victories kept it from being worse.
"If the teams that beat us by just a few points last season aren't significantly better, then we have a chance to win the games that put us under .500 and get back to a winning season," Jeremiah said. "We will play together better and do what we do better. In tight situations in games, we lost in the past because of our immaturity. We might win because of our maturity."
If the Titans can't put together a winning season this year, it might be a while before they can. There are six seniors on the team.
"If it doesn't happen this year, it's going to be a long next two or three seasons," Jeremiah said.
Fullerton is again a team without a dominant player. Amy Torczon, a 6-foot senior center/forward, was the Titans' leading scorer last season with an 11.4 average. No one else averaged in double figures.
Jeremiah isn't opposed to the balanced scoring of last season's team, but she would like those averages to increase by several points.
"If we can get double figures out of four players, we'll be all right," she said.
Although there is little difference between starters and backups at some positions, Sheryl Jones and Jill Matyuch apparently are the likely starting guards, and Wendy Anae and Felicia Benson should be the forwards, with Torczon at center.
Should Miller, a still-green freshman, progress enough defensively to play a lot, Torczon could move to her more natural position of forward.
"The weakness of our game is inside," Jeremiah said.
The performance of Anae, a 6-0 senior who has been a somewhat streaky shooter in the past, may well be the key to this team, Jeremiah said.
"I'm anxious to see how she'll be," Jeremiah said, adding that she thinks the Titans need about 15 points a game out of Anae, who averaged 8.6 last year but had a high of 19.
Other key players for the Titans will be senior center Cathi Hall, who at 6-1 is the Titans' only player other than Miller who is taller than 6 feet, and guards Stacy Hunt and Jennifer Latta.
The difficulty of the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. competition makes it imperative for the Titans to play well during December if they are to have a chance of improving significantly on last year's record.
Jeremiah has figured the Titans' prospects against PCAA teams--including Cal State Long Beach, which played in the NCAA Final Four last season--and knows that the Titans need wins early.
"Our preconference is very important to our win-loss record," she said.
The Titans have not had a winning season in the past two years. If they don't break that trend this year, it will be only the second time that Fullerton has had three consecutive losing seasons in the 19-year history of the program.
Jeremiah, in her third year as Fullerton coach after compiling a 90-63 record in five seasons at Indiana University, is looking for progress.
"In this business, you never think your program is growing fast enough. I'm not used to losing seasons," she said.
Fullerton, which opens its season Friday by playing host to the four-team Titan Classic at Titan Gym, has been predicted to finish in the lower half of the 10-team PCAA women's basketball conference.
CSUF WOMEN FACTS & FIGURES
Lettermen Returning (9)
No Player Po Hgt Yr FG% FT% Ast Reb Pts 33 Wendy Anae F 6-0 Sr .403 .525 1.2 3.2 7.3 11 Felicia Benson G 5-8 Jr .406 .650 1.6 3.6 7.6 24 Cathi Hall C 6-1 Sr .520 .630 0.2 3.8 7.9 22 Jane Hentzen G 5-9 Sr .370 .833 0.4 0.6 2.3 14 Stacy Hunt G 5-7 Jr .375 .591 1.7 1.8 4.4 15 Sheryl Jones G 5-6 Jr .343 .652 3.7 2.2 5.4 10 Jennifer Latta G 5-5 Sr .457 .667 0.8 2.3 3.7 21 Jill Matyuch G 5-8 So .430 .750 1.7 2.0 7.1 13 Amy Torczon F 6-0 Sr .520 .688 1.2 7.6 11.4
No Hometown (High School) 33 Laie, Hawaii (Kahuka) 11 Compton (Compton) 24 Redding, Calif. (Shasta) 22 Whittier (La Serna) 14 Riverside (Riverside Poly) 15 Toronto, Canada (W. Toronto) 10 Yorba Linda (Esperanza) 21 Placentia (El Dorado) 13 Taft (Taft Union)
No Player Po Hgt Yr Hometown (High School) 32 Karen Kuchan F 5-10 Jr Upland (Upland) 40 Eugenia Miller C 6-3 Fr Los Angeles (Crenshaw)