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With the strong play of its seniors, the emergence of Sparkle Anderson and Jessica Eggleston and a new fast-paced offense, the women’s basketball team looks to assume sole possession of second place in the Big West with another win against rival UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

“I love being able to coach a group of players that can push the ball on offense and never give up on defense,” coach Faith Mimnaugh said.

The Mustang women are definitely going out to get the ball this year. They are forcing a conference-high 14 steals per game, which correlates on the offensive end with over 15 assists each game. Junior point guard Sparkle Anderson has a lot to do with that newfound success.

“In my opinion she (Anderson) is the best point guard in the league,” Mimnaugh said.

Anderson is second on the team in steals with two a game, and tops the Big West in assists at over six a game. Leading the offense, Anderson has helped Cal Poly become the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. With only two players averaging over nine points a game, this revamped offense has seen contributions from almost all of its players.

“We found a style that works for us,” senior forward Sarah Grieve said.

A major part of that style is their intimidating interior defense. Grieve is sixth in the league in blocks with one and a half per game. She has already doubled her block average from last year, but do not let her unassuming height fool you. At six-foot-two-inches, Grieve recognized herself as being undersized.

“I may not be as tall as other centers in the league, but I try and make guards think twice about coming into the paint,” she said.

Grieve, along with Michelle Henke, Jennifer Dooley and Courtney Cameron, make a solid senior contribution.

“They’re huge to the team. They help us so much in our ability to stretch defenses with their three point shooting and they are team leaders,” Mimnaugh said.

This year, Henke has averaged over four points, three rebounds and three assists a game in twelve starts. In their biggest win of the year, Henke went off. She scored a career-high 21 points and added three assists with four steals. This win ended a seven-game home-winning streak for the Gauchos and was only the second time the women’s team has won in Santa Barbara in the past 22 years.

Playing in all 17 games, Dooley has only one start and relies on her ability to make changes off the bench. With her limited time she still managed to rank sixth in the league in three-pointers made, and leads the Mustangs in three-point percentage. Cameron suffered a stress fracture in the beginning of the season and that forced her to miss almost half the season. But she has come back strong. In just 10 games this year, she is averaging six points a game with two rebounds.

Possibly the player with the most impact this year has been junior guard Jessica Eggleston. Averaging close to 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals a game, she is having an all-conference year. She ranks sixth in the league in scoring and rebounding and accounts for a lot of second-chance points because of her two offensive rebounds per game.

Mimnaugh hopes the team will continue its success in the second half of conference play and end on a high note before the Big West tournament. If the team stays aggressive on both ends of the floor, the Mustangs could sweep the Gauchos this season. The game tips off at 2 p.m. in Mott Gym with the men’s game to follow.

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