For the second consecutive season, Golden West College is expected to be one of the best women's basketball teams in Southern California.
Last season, Golden West was 14-0 in conference and 34-2 overall but lost to American River in the semifinals of the state tournament. This season, the Rustlers are again the coaches' favorite to win the South Coast Conference, ahead of Fullerton, El Camino, Cerritos, Mt. San Antonio, Pasadena, Compton and Long Beach.
"We seem to have the potential to be as good as we were last season," Golden West Coach Dick Stricklin said. "But we have to cut down on mistakes and play together. Last season's team complemented each other really well. That is what this year's team will have to do also."
Here's a closer look at the Orange County teams in the South Coast Conference, with last season's record in parentheses:
FULLERTON (19-12, 9-5)
Outlook--Rachel Hurlburt, the Hornets' only returning player, will move from forward to guard as Fullerton searches for a player who can make the 19-foot 9-inch, three-point shot, which is debuting in women's basketball this season.
Hurlburt is joined in the backcourt by a some impressive freshmen--Lisa Crosskey, who was a first-team Southern Section player from Monrovia High School, and Steffi Strauss, a second-team Southern Section selection from Valencia.
Kelli Johnson of Katella High School and Lisa Lanphar of Brea-Olinda give Fullerton has a pair of 6-foot tall centers.
Fullerton will also be strong up front with six forwards at 5-7 or taller, including Vivian Perez (5-9) and Denise Weiland (5-8).
GOLDEN WEST (34-2, 14-0)
Outlook--The Rustlers lost conference most valuable player April Marion to graduation but return three starters, including all-state guard Jeannine Battaglia, who averaged 18.5 points a game last season. Battaglia, however, has been slowed by a sprained ankle.
Sisters Kim Takayama, who led the state with seven assists a game, and Kris Takayama are in the backcourt. Jane Utu (5-11), who was also all-conference last season, returns at forward and will be joined by Kathy Werth (6-0), a sophomore transfer from Fresno State. Shawna Armstrong (5-9), a freshman from Huntington Beach High School, is also expected to start.
In the Orange Empire Conference, Riverside, which won the title last season and advanced to the state quarterfinals, is again the favorite, ahead of Citrus, Cypress, Rancho Santiago, Orange Coast and Saddleback.
Here's a closer look at the Orange County teams in the conference:
CYPRESS (20-10, 8-2)
Outlook--The Chargers return three starters and five members off last season's second-place team. But Cypress will be without all-conference forward Pam Fritch (13 points and 10 rebounds a game last season), who injured her knee in the final conference game last season and will redshirt.
Center Janene Allen (6-0) is back and is joined up front by returner Venetta Dorlis and freshmen Vicky Silva (5-9) and Becky Wayland (5-11).
Cypress also returns a strong backcourt, led by all-conference guard Karen Caires. Jeanette Dorsey also returns and is joined by sophomore transfer Laura Valdebenito.
RANCHO SANTIAGO (13-16, 3-7)
Outlook--The Dons return all-conference forward and team most valuable player Demerial Gibson and guard Doreen Rodriguez this season.
Gibson will be joined on the front line by freshman Vanessa Early (6-0). In the backcourt, Rodriguez will be joined by Pam Murray and Melisa Armijo, who will play a swing position.
ORANGE COAST (14-17, 4-6)
Outlook--The Pirates return three players--guard Nancy Lux, guard-forward Annie Foley and forward-center Leslie Self.
Freshman Gilly Powell (5-11) of Woodbridge High School should play center and be joined up front by Self and freshman Kristen Wilson, who played at Edison High School two seasons ago.
Lux will start at point guard and be joined in the backcourt by Foley and freshman Kim Ellerman if Foley doesn't play forward. Ellerman (5-9) could also move up front to play forward.
SADDLEBACK (9-16, 0-10)
Outlook--Saddleback, which has only nine players, should at least have some height. Center Julie Monaghan (6-3) returns from last season's team and forward Kelly Ann Wilson (5-10) returns from the 1985-86 team.
Also back from last season's team is guard Michelle Stevens, who will be paired in the backcourt by freshman Doneisa Anderson of Tustin High School.