A little over 100 days after the end of their season in Henderson, Nevada, against Long Beach State, the Cal State Bakersfield basketball teams released their rankings for the Big West Conference on Wednesday. The school’s volleyball team, fresh from a National Invitational Volleyball Championship, had released its own full schedule a day earlier.
And while rosters and team dynamics are just beginning to take shape – CSUB is still in the youth camp phase of its summer schedule – it’s never too early to start preparing for next season. Here’s a matchup worth keeping an eye on from each of those three teams, with some light season previews along the way.
Arizona State CSUB Volleyball (August 26)
Perhaps calling the season opener a highlight match is a bit too obvious, but this game has some special intrigue. For one, playing against a Pac-12 enemy kicks off a nine-game road trip with four games against qualifiers for last year’s NCAA tournament, including three in a row in Vermillion, SD, in early September. Additionally, next year’s ASU roster will include graduate transfer Brooke Boiseau, who has been a fixture at CSUB in the middle blocker since her 2018-19 redshirt freshman year.
ASU had an under-.500 season last year (14-17, 7-13 Pac-12). but returns almost all of his talent, highlighted by wingers Iman Isanovic and Marta Levinska. Isanovic was one of the Pac-12’s most feared attackers last season, averaging 3.89 kills per set. Boiseau joins a solid group of middle blockers led by Claire Jeter, who started her career at Texas A&M but amassed 115 blocks for the Sun Devils last year.
The Roadrunners have plenty of power on theirs with Hayley McCluskey (2.87 kills per set and a Big West honorable mention last year, but also 152 attacking errors) and Hana Makonova (2.26 kills per set, 1.03 blocks per set). Side. But who will set them up once all-conference setter Seleisa Elisaia has gone to Penn State? Elisaia thrived in CSUB’s 5-1 system as a prolific single player with a unique ability to occasionally surprise defense with an attack of her own. CSUB coach Giovana Melo has brought in transfers Laura De Pra (Louisiana Tech) and Ella Erteltova (Florida International) to fill the gap at that position.
CSUB Men’s Basketball vs. UC San Diego (January 14)
New this year at the Big West, games against UC San Diego, which is still in the process of being transferred to Division I, will count towards the conference record. This will make this Tritons matchup mean a little bit more for the Roadrunners in their third week of the conference. And the memory of Bryce Pope’s victorious jumper over Kaleb Higgins at the Icardo Center on March 3 won’t be too distant as both players are slated to return as top scoring options for their team in 2022-23.
The Tritons’ leader in points, rebounds and steals, forward Toni Rocak, has left for San Francisco, but UCSD still have Francis Nwaokorie (who averaged 12 points and six rebounds) and traded a familiar face to UC Irvine Emmanuel Tshimanga , a 7-footer from Montreal is still awaiting his breakout season.
This will be a test in color for a CSUB team graduating from Justin Edler-Davis, Justin McCall and Shawn Stith. Cameron Smith was strong late in the year, posting a career-high 14 points against Long Beach State, and returnee Travis Henson has versatile offensive skills but disappeared for games at times. And while CSUB has yet to release its final lineup for the upcoming season, it looks like the Lithuanian duo of Creighton transfers Modestas Kancleris – who has 33 career minutes in it – and newcomer Ugnius Jarusevicius are destined to have plenty of playing time in the front spot could.
CSUB coach Rod Barnes has been tinkering with his rotation all last season. Ideally, the Roadrunners would have a permanent fixture in place by that important January match.
CSUB Women’s Basketball vs. Hawaii (January 28)
Playing in Hawaii will be the ultimate benchmark for the Roadrunners this year after they tried and failed four times last season to take out Big West champion Rainbow Wahine. “It’s a bit much,” Hawaii coach Laura Beeman said after CSUB missed a hookshot from Vanessa Austin to upset a stunning tournament in Henderson. Instead, the Rainbow Wahine defeated the Roadrunners for the second year in a row.
The three veteran leaders who handled the ball for CSUB in the final seconds – Austin, Andie Easley and Jayden Eggleston – are gone, as are Jasmine Dixon, Lexus Green and Miracle Saxon. That’s six of the top seven players after minutes, although the Roadrunners are said to be returning three “starters” because coach Greg McCall often opens with a special lineup, including Sage Bridges-Bey, Simone Johnson and Hennie van Schaik.
By that point, two months into the season, the returning Roadrunners, highlighted by sophomore point guard Tatyanna Clayburne, must have built a rhythm of four transfers and two freshmen. Most of the team’s new additions, including standout defender Taylor Caldwell, a native of Bakersfield, are in the backcourt, meaning van Schaik and 6ft-6 transfer Shayley Harris will need to improve their physicality in the paint to take the Make Up Loss by Austin.
CSUB will need all the help it can get as Hawaii loses Big West Player of the Year Amy Atwell but wins last year’s Freshman of the Year Lily Wahinekapu, a talented goaltender from Cal State Fullerton while shedding the menacing Daejah Phillips brings back, who had a late start against the Roadrunners in March.
Reporter Henry Greenstein can be reached at 661-395-7374. Follow him on Twitter: @HenryGreenstein.