Led by a plethora of vetted seniors, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team is looking to improve on a seventh-place conference finish in 2016.
The Mustangs are placed to finish sixth in this year’s Big West preseason coaches’ poll and tied for fourth in the media poll. Standout senior guards Lynn and Dynn Leaupepe also earned spots on the preseason all-conference team.
The Leaupepe twins led a high-scoring offense that was second in the Big West. Cal Poly’s downfall has been on defense, finishing second-to-worst in conference for scoring defense in 2016 while allowing 68.6 points per game. Even though the Mustangs offense was up to speed, their leaky defense ultimately left them with an 11-18 overall record. The team lost five games by six points or less.
Head coach Faith Mimnaugh is optimistic that her team will improve in the standings this season. She recognized strong improvement on defense over recent years and even this off-season. Mimnaugh said that the team has been particularly aggressive during practice this preseason. The fundamentals which have been built over recent years provide a foundation for the Mustangs to use this aggression effectively on defense.
“Their abilities to be aggressive on the court is something that will lead us to do more things defensively than what we’ve done in the past,” Mimnaugh said.
Even though the senior class is continuously improving on defense, there is still a young presence on the team that needs to be developed. With three new freshmen and one transfer, the team needs to adjust to playing with each other. However, Mimnaugh said this has not been a problem so far.
“I think the chemistry is for sure there,” Mimnaugh said. “We have a number of players that I think have stepped up as far as verbal communications go.”
The already-present chemistry among the senior class has made the transition into the new season much easier for Mimnaugh, who is heading into her 21st season as head coach. There is no stronger chemistry within the team than the bond between twin sisters Lynn and Dynn Leaupepe.
Both of the Leaupepe twins ranked in the top five in scoring in the Big West last year, giving the Mustangs a clear offensive advantage heading into the 2017 season. Dynn is a proven shooter, while Lynn excels on the boards, finishing third in conference for rebounds last year despite being a 5-feet-9 inches tall guard.
The twins not only provide a backbone for the team but also support each other.
“You always have someone there with you, someone there to always critique you on whatever you’re doing. Just getting that feedback from someone all the time is super helpful,” Dynn Leaupepe said.
“Yeah, same,” Lynn said.
The twins have improved greatly throughout their three years so far, which Mimnaugh credits to their combined work ethic. She says Lynn and Dynn are often the first ones in the gym, which may mean getting to Mott at 5 a.m. for a 6 a.m. practice.
“Lynn and Dynn have been treasures [since] the day they stepped on campus,” Mimnaugh said.
The twin sisters have been improving and honing their skills for a few years now and have established themselves as star players in the Big West. The Mustangs have five other returning seniors as well, but these two sisters are clear leaders. They expect that their chemistry will show on the court.
“A lot of people don’t expect it, but we’re the only ones that knows it’s coming,” Dynn said.
Cal Poly will play their first game at the University of San Francisco Nov. 10. The Mustangs lost last year’s match against the Dons 73-67 at Mott Athletics Center.