A lofty placement in the Big West preseason media poll could make the Rainbow Wahine basketball team a target for the rest of the conference this season — precisely the scenario Laura Beeman envisioned when she took over as head coach.
The Rainbow Wahine were picked second in the preseason poll released on Wednesday, trailing only defending conference champion Cal State Northridge. UH received one first-place vote with the other 13 going to the Matadors.
“It just raises our expectations that we’re going to have to compete this year,” Beeman said after Wednesday’s practice in Gym II.
“We walked in here and everybody else had the target that we were going after. So to finally be the team that everyone is trying to beat, we haven’t reached where we’re trying to go, but it sure is nice.”
The return of sixth-year senior Shawna-Lei Kuehu, who represented UH on the six-player preseason all-conference team, along with Ashleigh Karaitiana and Destiny King helped elevate expectations entering Beeman’s third year leading the program.
UH was picked second last year and went 17-14 overall and 10-6 in Big West play to finish third in the conference for a second straight year.
Beeman anticipated the Wahine would be second or third, possibly fourth, in this year’s poll and expected CSUN to top the list after winning both the BWC regular season and tournament titles. The Matadors return all five starters among nine letterwinners from last year’s team, including reigning Big West Player of the Year Ashlee Guay.
“Northridge is going to be very, very good,” Beeman said. “They won it last year, they return everybody, they’ve added some wonderful pieces to their roster. I think they’re going to be very difficult to beat and they’re going to have a big bull’s-eye on their back and we’re going to go after it.”
Cal Poly, which returns all-conference guard Ariana Elegado, was third in the poll followed by UC Davis and Long Beach State.
Kuehu was granted a sixth year of eligibility and averaged 10.1 points on her way to earning second-team
All-Big West honors last year.
Big West preseason media poll
1. CS Northridge (13) 125
2. Hawaii (1) 101
3. Cal Poly 99
4. UC Davis 83
5. Long Beach State 73
6. CS Fullerton 53
7. UC Irvine 41
8. UC Riverside 29
9. UC Santa Barbara 26
() First place votes
Preseason all-conference team
Ariana Elegado, G, Cal Poly
Ashlee Guay, G, CS Northridge
Janae Sharp, G, CS Northridge
Sydnee Fipps, F, UC Davis
Brittany Crain, G, UC Riverside
Shawna-Lei Kuehu, G/F, Hawaii