The Cal State Dominguez Hills women's basketball team (4-8) has never been a powerhouse in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. The Toros' league finish the last couple of years proves it. They finished sixth last season with a 4-8 record and seventh the year before at 0-12.
The lack of success has something to do with Cal Poly Pomona--which has won six consecutive league titles and three Division II national championships.
"That's why every year everyone just plays for second place in the CCAA," said Dominguez Hills Coach Alice Textor.
But being in a tough league isn't the only thing that will hold back the Toros this season.
Due to injuries to top players, the dropout of two starters and the ineligibility of one of its best players, Dominguez Hills is depending heavily on youngsters to carry the team through league play that starts Jan. 15 at Chapman College.
"We have talent," said Textor, "but we need experience. Our strength is taking the ball away, but our weakness is giving it back."
Textor was counting on juniors Kim Williamson, who quit basketball because she got married, and Lecia Codrington, who dropped out of school.
Senior forward Debra McGee was ruled ineligible three hours before the season opener because she had completed the NCAA limit of 10 semesters. McGee is a transfer from Los Angeles City College and played volleyball instead of basketball during her first semester at Dominguez Hills.
"We lost our right arm when we lost Debra," Textor said. "She would have been our fastest, strongest player and definitely one of our best shooters."
As if that wasn't enough, the bread-and-butter player, 5-9 forward Michelle Jennings, who averaged nine points and eight rebounds after seven games this season fractured a bone in her right foot three weeks ago.
"This has never happened to me before and it's frustrating," said Jennings while she watched her teammates warm up for a game. "I feel detached from the team. It feels terrible. But I'll be back soon."
Maybe not soon enough. Textor doubts her star player will return in time for conference play this week.
"If we lost our right arm in Debra," said Textor, "we lost our heart when we lost Michelle.
"Michelle is the definition of the phrase 'right place at the right time.' There was never a loose ball she didn't get. She got the job done all the time."
Freshman forward Demetra Johnson, considered the Toros' prize recruit, had knee surgery in September. Johnson was the Central City player of the year at Washington High School and a first team all-Mid-City League star. She averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds as a senior at Washington.
Textor is going with a starting lineup that has only one senior, three freshman and a junior. She stresses constant defensive pressure and a three-guard offense.
"If we want to be successful," Textor said, "we have to take care of the ball for 40 minutes, and that means constant pressure."
Freshmen Devon Akita and Carolyn Osato will do most of the ball handling. Akita was an all-Sunset league player at Westminster High and Osato was a two-time all-Empire league selection at Loara High School in Anaheim who averaged 15 points a game.
"They may be young," said Textor, "but they work well together.
"Devon can score from anywhere on the floor and Carolyn always has great control and is a great passer."
The starting forwards are junior Kathy Goggin, who is averaging nine points, and freshman Debbie Herz. Herz was a two-time all-league selection at North Hollywood High who averaged 21 points and 16 rebounds and is scoring 6 points per game this season.
Angel Wells, a 5-6 guard who shot 60% from the field last year, is the only senior in the lineup. Her experience, quickness and court leadership will be an asset.
"She's a great role model," said Textor, "because she's always out there till the buzzer. She never gives up or lets up."
The Toros also have a quality player in 5-4 sophomore Maria Elzy. She is averaging nine points despite coming off the bench.
"Maria is our leader and probably one of our top players right now," Textor said. "Her strength is taking the ball away. She's done that well."
Textor believes her team will do well, considering the last-minute adjustments. She says this group can make it to the CCAA postseason tournament, which takes the top four teams in the conference, because although her squad is small and young, it's quick.
"And the great thing about youth," she said, "is that even if they're overmatched, they don't know it. They never give less than 110%."