For the 2022-23 CSUDH women’s basketball team, this season is all about building on the foundation of success that they established last year. With an entirely new batch pf players, the team was able to finish fourth in the ultra-competitive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). This season, they’re looking for more.
“Last season was a pleasant surprise,” says head coach John Bonner, who is entering his seventh year in charge of the program. “We had 12 new players that we hadn’t coached before, and one returning player who had redshirted. Because we were so young and didn’t have a lot of experience, we didn’t know what to expect.”
“We wanted to utilize that time to establish the right type of culture. Hard working in the classroom, hard working on the court. I think we did that. Competitively, we thought we’d struggle, because we were relying on a lot of first-year players to lead us, but it actually turned out pretty well.”
The 2021-22 team finished with a 13-12 record. Their season ended with a two-point loss to Chico State in the CCAA tournament quarterfinals. This year’s team returns all but one player from that squad, “which we hope propels us to some good things,” says Bonner.
The program was knocked on its heels a bit by the COVID pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the entire 2020-21 season. Almost every player on the team graduated and moved on to graduate school or careers, resulting in last year’s youthful squad. Bonner used the time off to take a step back and look at the program with fresh eyes.
“The year off gave us an opportunity to evaluate exactly what we were doing as a program,” says Bonner. “It gave us an opportunity to reevaluate what we were doing, to take a deeper dive into what was working and what wasn’t working. Any issues that were lingering from the past were out. We took it as an opportunity to start fresh.”
The coaching staff’s work paid off in last year’s successful season. When asked about his goals for the upcoming season, Bonner says, “You always want to win, but our goal is to make sure we continue we doing things right. Since I’ve been here, we’ve increased the GPA of our team every year, so we want to make sure we’re maintaining that.”
“On the court, we want to be competitive every day, but we want to do it the right way,” he continues. “Communication, hard work, playing for each other — if we do that, the wins are going to come. We want to win, we want to be in the playoffs, we want to compete for a conference championship, but we want to make sure that along the way, the players represent the university at the highest level.”
“Of course, if we can hang a banner, that would be big as well,” he adds.
The Toros play an up-tempo style, trying to score early in the shot clock and keeping opponents on their heels on both ends of the court. Their defense involves a lot of pressing and trapping, while offensively they look to run when possible, a style that Bonner describes as “fast and fun.”
“But where we hang our hat will be our ability to defend and rebound,” he adds. “If we can do those two things, then I think everything else will take care of itself.”
Above all, Bonner is proud of the women who make up this year’s team. “We’re built around being more than just athletes. We’re going to work hard and put on a show for anyone who comes to our games, but we’ve also got a lot of kids who are invested in this university. I think that’s what sets us apart, these women are not here just for basketball.”
“They’ve bought into this community, they want to be as involved as they can across campus. Although they’re athletes, that’s just one piece of their identity. They’re also students of Dominguez Hills and they really love this university. That’s what reverberates within our program.”
The CSUDH women’s basketball team plays their home opener against Lincoln University, as part of a double-header with the men’s team on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 5:30 p.m. at the Torodome. Their complete schedule is available at https://gotoros.com/sports/womens-basketball/schedule.