Oct. 28, 2013
San Jose, Calif. - Embarking on its first year in the Mountain West Conference and led by a new coach, the 2013-14 San José State women's basketball team hosts the William Jessup Warriors in an exhibition Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. in The Event Center.
Junior guard Ta'Rea Cunnigan, who was selected to the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference Team, by a vote of the conference's head coaches, leads the Spartans. Cunnigan averaged 19.8 points (17th nationally), 5.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals (14th nationally) last season in earning first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors.
Riana Byrd, a WAC All-Freshman Team, All-Defensive Team and third-team All-WAC selection in 2012-13, set the program's single-season blocked shots record (64) last season. Her 11.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game made her the first player in 23 years to average a double double for the Spartans. In addition, the sophomore center's 327 rebounds were two shy of the San José State women's basketball single-season record.
Emily Schill averaged 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds in her freshman campaign. Her 36-point output against Utah State on January 12 set the Spartans' freshman single-game scoring record. She led the team to 103 total points that game, which equaled a program record.
The Spartans return three other letterwinners, two of which were starters, junior guards Chereese Thomas and Classye James, as well as sophomore guard Jayzyl Tauala. All three played pivotal roles for the team last season.
The Spartans have three transfer students, one who will play this year, Rebecca Woodberry, and two who will sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules, Aniya Baker and Emily Vann.
Woodberry comes to San José State as a junior after beginning her collegiate career at Nebraska. As a senior at Tolleson Union High School in Phoenix, Ariz., she earned Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, The Arizona Republic Big Classes Player of the Year, first-team Class 5A-Division II All-State and Desert West Region Player of the Year honors for averaging 25.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.3 steals en route to a 28-5 team record and a state championship. Her junior season, she averaged 23.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game leading the team to a 29-3 record, the state championship, first-team Class 5A-Division II All State and Desert West Region Player of the Year honors.
The roster is rounded out with four freshmen. Forward Paris Baird, a redshirt last season, won a high school state championship at the Windward School in Los Angeles, Calif., in 2011. Britta Hall, a guard, who averaged 17.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game last season at Tualatin (Ore.) High School.
Rachol West, a four-time Southeast Yosemite League and team MVP at Garces Memorial High School in Bakersfield, Calif., scored more than 2,200 points in her high school career. Jasmine Smith, played on the Bellarmine Jefferson High School state championship team, and averaged 15.2 points, 9.5 rebounds in earning first-team All-CIF Division IIIA honors as a senior.
In addition to new faces on the court, a new head coach, Jamie Craighead, leads the team.
Craighead comes to San José State after spending the past four seasons at Sacramento State, where she was the winningest women's head basketball coach in the last 20 years and the only coach to post a winning conference record at Sacramento State since they entered the Big Sky Conference in the 1996-97 season. Under her guidance the Hornets reached the Big Sky Conference Tournament for just the fifth (2012) and sixth (2013) times in program history. In those appearances, Sacramento State earned its first tournament wins and reached the semi-final round both years.
The youngest head coach in Division I when she took over the Hornets in 2009, Craighead's teams, playing a fast-break type offense, led the Big Sky Conference in scoring in each of her four seasons.
Last season the program set several records including field goals made, assists, blocked shots and fewest turnovers committed. In addition, the team's 19 wins equaled the program's single-season record, which was set in the 1990-91 season. The Hornets led the Big Sky in points, 3-pointers, and assists and on the defensive end, topped the league in steals and blocks.