After a disappointing 2017-18 season, the SF State women’s basketball team looks to turn the program around heading into the 2018-19 season.
The Lady Gators will be led by first-year head coach Natasha Smith, who joins SF State after spending the previous two years at the University of San Francisco, where she was the top assistant for head coach Molly Goodenbour. Smith will take over the reigns of a 5-20 program, one that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003-04, when the Gators went 14-13.
“Natasha is a veteran in Division II and CCAA coaching, and has a huge network of positive support in the basketball world and life,” said Director of Athletics Stephanie Shrieve-Hawkins after the signing.
Smith, a Sacramento native, was a four-year basketball player for Chico State, where she graduated in 2013.
She ended her career as the all-time leader in games played for Chico State. Smith’s accomplishments also have her ranked ninth in three-pointers made, sixth all-time in scoring, fifth in steals, fourth in free throws made and third in assists in Chico State’s women’s basketball history.
“I look forward to the challenge of creating a culture at San Francisco State that can leave an everlasting impact on all of our student-athletes, the athletic department, the university, and Bay Area,” Smith said after the hire.
Returning to the Lady Gators this season for her senior year is forward Jhaina Stephens. Stephens is sixth in conference scoring and third in rebounding, and is coming back for a rebuilding program. She averaged 15.8 points and 10.3 rebounds last season for the Gators.
Also returning with Stephens are guards Amani Alexander and Toni Edwards along with forwards Kaleigh Pugh and Danielle Palmer. Both Edwards and Palmer did not suit up for SF State last season.
The five returning players will be joined by nine freshmen — guards Megan Cistulli, Taisia Fleming, Isabella Lamonea, Taimane Lesa-Hardee, Mackenzie Oribello and Emily Trask, along with forwards Jasmin Asher, Madison Corder and Anaya Sperling.
Expectations are high for the incoming class of Lady Gators, with nine of their freshman winning various All-League awards and MVP honors during their high school careers.
The mix of a true point guard in Fleming, the defensive prowess of Lesa-Hardee, the mamba mentality of Cistulli and the athleticism and youth of the freshmen crop of players is a challenge Smith is looking forward to coaching.
“I’m excited for the challenge ahead,” said Smith. “The balance in our non-conference schedule will prepare us to compete in the CCAA.”
The Lady Gators will begin their season with a pair of exhibition games on the road, the first on Nov. 2 against the University of the Pacific and Nov. 7 against San Jose State.
The Gators will hold the SF State Gator invitational on Nov. 10-11, hosting Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks.Conference play won’t get underway until Nov. 23, when the Gators host Cal State Monterey Bay.