Women's basketball season preview

Simpson University Sports News


REDDING, Calif. - “Road to the Tyson Event Center” is what a person sees when they walk into head women’s basketball coach Derrick Pringle’s office. It is a poster for the NAIA final four which is held in Sioux City, Iowa. Most people would think for a coach coming off of a 7-24 season, this might be a bit of a lofty goal. But, Coach Pringle’s enthusiasm is contagious. “I know we can take our conference, it’s just a matter of consistency and heart,” he said.

Last year’s Lady Red Hawks basketball team truly believes their overall record was not indicative of the quality of team they were. “We lost around six of our games by three points or less and probably another seven games by five points. If a few of our shots had fallen through in some of those games, who knows, we may have been .500,” Coach Pringle told his team in a preseason meeting before official practice had started.

The words “consistency” and “chemistry” seem to be the buzzwords around the women’s basketball team. “As a team this season we are displaying a cohesiveness that was lacking last year. We feel that this is the first year that Coach Pringle has “his” team, essentially everyone here he brought in, and we are excited to work hard for coach,” senior forward Alyssa Foster said of this years squad.

“We want to buy into coach’s vision and new system,” senior center Dominique Simmons added. “Coach's system is built on discipline, attitude, and heart; all of these help set up an atmosphere for success."

Leslie Hirshfield, the final senior on the roster, echoes the sentiments of her teammates. “Its just a better environment,” she said.

“All the makings were there last year for a great team; we just seemed to trail off at the end of the game," Pringle laments about last year's efforts. “It was a mental toughness thing. This year we will not have that same issue. We will not go 7-24!” 

The Red Hawks return most of their impact players from last year as well as the addition of some key newcomers. Pringle hopes that last year’s young team has since transformed into an experienced one, with a year of collegiate basketball under their belt. 

Transfers Kylie Shaw and Solvagna Slay will be splitting time at the point guard position. Pringle's “floor generals” displayed their ability in a preseason scrimmage against Grays Harbor Community College, causing turnovers and efficiently penetrating on offense. Their constant pressure and ability to run the motion offense will make them a welcome addition to the Red Hawk lineup. The other new face among the Lady Red Hawks is freshman forward Kaila Smith. Against Grays Harbor, Smith was one of the first posts off the bench. “Smith has the ability, as a freshman, to play in the California Pacific Conference,” said Pringle.  

The strength of the Red Hawks is their returners. The Lady Red Hawks return nine impact players from last year. Guards Kayla Rackley, Chelsea Engstrom, Hirshfield, and Paige Barrett are a quartet of effective off-guards. Rackley and Engstrom are suffocating defenders, and when combined with Slay and Shaw, opposing teams will have a tough time getting into any kind of offense. Three-point shooters Barrett and Hirshfield will be the deep threat for the Red Hawks. Barrett has almost unlimited range, coupled with a quick release makes her someone to watch in the upcoming season.

In the post, the Red Hawks return three experienced players. Simmons is a force to reckoned with down low. She is the only true “back to the basket” player on the team. Simmons’ drop step and jump hook are virtually unstoppable. Forward Foster is the tallest woman on the roster. Her length will create problems for opposing offenses as she has the ability to block and alter shots down low. Foster also combines her defensive skills with an ability to step away from the basket and make the mid-ranger jumper. All-Conference Honorable mention Liz Thomas also returns. Thomas is probably the most versatile post on the roster; she can shoot from the outside as well as post up. Thomas’ speed allows her to get out ahead of her defenders on the fast break, which creates mismatches in transition for the Red Hawks.

The 2009-2010 Red Hawks are set to be a high intensity, athletic, and competitive team. They can run 10 women deep if they stay healthy. This affords them the opportunity to keep their players constantly fresh. Maybe the most impressive thing about the Red Hawks could be their team chemistry. As a team they generally like each other, and it translates on the court. Their ability to talk on defense and anticipate on offense makes them a pleasure to watch. There is no doubt that Coach Pringle’s team will be better than last year, and who knows maybe the road they have embarked down thus far this season happens to also be the road to Sioux City.

Contact: Derrick Pringle, Jr.
(530) 226-4731