In the six seasons that there has been women's basketball in the National Collegiate thletic Assn.'s Division II, Cal Poly Pomona has set the standard for success Under Coach Darlene May, the Broncos have won six straight California Collegiate Athletic Assn. titles and NCAA playoff berths, three Division II championships and have reached the finals five times.
With those credentials, it is no surprise that the Broncos are regarded as the favorite to win the conference title again and reach the playoffs.
And with seven talented freshmen on Pomona's 12-player roster, the seeds have been planted to continue the dynasty into the 1990s.
While the freshmen are developing, the Broncos will rely on four top players from last year's 29-3 squad that finished second in Division II. They are 6-foot 2-inch sophomore center Niki Bracken, 6-1 junior forward Marcine Edmonds, 5-8 senior guard Paula Tezak and 5-5 junior point guard Cathy Gooden.
Two freshmen who could make an immediate impact for the Broncos are 5-8 guard Carrie Egan, the Southern Section 3-A most valuable player at Brea-Olinda High last year, and 5-10 forward Serenda Valdez, who starred at Anaheim Katella.
Pomona's toughest competition for the top spot in the CCAA is expected from Cal State Northridge and Cal State Los Angeles, two of the Broncos' closest rivals last season.
Northridge, which was 16-11 and finished second in the CCAA a season ago, is led by 6-1 sophomore twins Kathleen and Maryann Dixon, on its front line and 5-9 junior guard Vicki Mallett. The Matadors, who have one of their deepest teams, also have a strong freshman class that includes 5-11 forward Julie Arlotto of Simi Valley High.
With three starters returning, Cal State L.A. has the talent to match last year's 19-9 team. Topping the list is 6-foot junior center Lupe Quintana, who is closing in on the CCAA record for career rebounds. The others are 5-6 guard Geri Montanio and 5-10 forward Sue Doody. The Golden Eagles also have a part-time starter returning in 6-foot forward Tina Slatinsky.
UC Riverside also has good experience with three starters returning from a 12-12 team led by 5-11 forward Debbie Arnold. The others are 5-10 forward Laura Spellacy and 5-11 center Tonie Carter.
Chapman, 12-15 last season, has only two starters returning in guards Karan Polk, 5-4, and Dana Dawson, 5-7, but the Panthers should benefit up front with the addition of transfers Jennifer Uecke, 6-3, from New Mexico and Lisa Schumaker, 6-0, from Orange Coast College.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (12-17) is short on experience with 5-6 guard Julie Jordan as its only starter returning. The Mustangs, however, have hope for the future with such front-line players as 6-foot sophomore Russia Madden, 6-1 junior Stacy Rooney and 6-1 freshman Pam Coffey.
For Cal State Dominguez Hills (10-16), the challenge may be to stay out of last place. The Toros do have a good front-line player in 5-9 Michelle Jennings and a solid freshman recruiting class led by 5-8 forward Demetra Johnson.
You don't have to travel far from Cal Poly Pomona to find the best women's basketball team on the West Coast in NCAA Division III.
Pomona-Pitzer in neighboring Claremont has won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title seven years in a row and reached the Division III playoffs six straight times, and the Sagehens are favored to win the conference title again.
The Sagehens, who were 24-4 and reached the Division III West Regional final last season, have good size returning, headed by juniors Lara Boyd, 5-11, at forward and 6-0 Liz Peters at center. Three other leaders for the Sagehens are forwards Holly Ingraham, 5-11, and Melinda Kelly, 5-11, and 5-9 guard Anne Backus.
Claremont-Mudd finished second to Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC last season and the Athenas, 16-10 a season ago, have two starters returning in 6-1 junior forward Betsy Means and 5-7 sophomore guard Stacey McIlroy. The Athenas, who have good size, also feature 6-2 center Julia Hodgkins.
Whittier (18-7) has graduated conference most valuable player Julie Curtis, who has become an assistant coach at Claremont-Mudd. But the Poets have two excellent all-conference players returning in 5-8 forward Michelle Chomicz and 6-1 center Patty Palmer. The Poets are also strong at guard with 5-7 Jennifer Taylor and 5-7 Danelle Beard.
Occidental struggled to a 9-14 record last season, but the Tigers should improve with the return of front-line starters Joelle Orton, 6-0, at center, and 5-10 Kelly Stephenson at forward, and 5-5 all-conference guard Sharon Wada. Another top backcourt player is 5-5 guard Sharon Bruner.
La Verne (10-16) and Redlands (7-19) figure to battle for fifth place in the conference.
Cal State San Bernardino, a Division III independent that was 14-12 last season, should improve with the return of 5-10 center Celeste Gates and 5-10 forward Teri Paine--the team's top players last year. Both averaged 14.9 points and were the top rebounders for the Coyotes. Another standout is 5-7 guard Sayori Baldwin.
Staying even with the women's basketball team at Cal Baptist of Riverside may be a tall order this season.
That's because the Lancers have four key players who are 6-1 or taller. They are 6-2 juniors Shannon Patterson and Maribeth Reuss, 6-2 freshman Sonja Akkerman and 6-1 junior Sabrena Wright.
The Lancers also have 5-10 senior forward Laura Lewis. She averaged 16.3 points for last season's 17-14 squad. That should help Cal Baptist contend for the District III championship in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics.