If Saturday’s rematch of the 2019 Golden State Athletic Conference championship wasn’t already interesting enough, the Westmont women’s basketball team will not just be facing The Master’s, it will also be taking on the No. 1 team in the country.
After an exciting 18-0 start to the season, the best in program history, including a 6-0 start in GSAC play, the Mustangs earned the No. 1 ranking in the NAIA Div. 1 coaches poll for the first time in program history.
“This is a matchup that I feel always brings out the best in both teams and so we, without a doubt, need to be our best on Saturday,” Westmont coach Kirsten Moore said.
The Warriors are no slouches themselves, however. They will host the Mustangs, ranked No. 4 in the NAIA after amassing a 13-2 overall record to this point and a 6-0 start in GSAC play.
The key for Westmont on Saturday is a simple one, however. In order to beat the No. 1 team in the country, it will need to shut down its star player, Stephanie Soares.
Soares currently averages a double-double with team-high marks in points and rebounds with 20.9 points per contest and 12.2 boards per game.
The sophomore forward/center is also shooting a fantastic clip from the field (65%) and has knocked down 7 of her 20 shots from deep this season.
On the defensive end, Soares averages six blocks per contest, far and away, the highest mark in the NAIA.
“She’s 6-6 but plays even taller than that and she is so long that they can leave her alone in the back to block shots so without scoring much in the paint, we are going to need to knock down some shots,” Moore said.
“We just can’t let her get into a comfort zone and into a rhythm. If she catches it low on the block, there’s no one in the country that can stop her, so we got to try to keep her from getting it there.”
With the average height on the Westmont team being 5-5, stopping Soares might prove to be a difficult task.
However, if there is one thing the Warriors are known for this season, it is being undermanned and yet still winning nearly every contest.
Westmont has two athletes on its roster listed at 6-0, but one of those players, Sydney Brown, is out for the season.
Even without many tall players, it’s players like senior captain Maud Ranger who make the difference for the Warriors night in and night out.
“She epitomizes what it means to be a Warrior, whatever we need to do, she’s figured out a way to do it for us. She is feisty and scrappy on the boards and has really made it so that even with the injuries on our team, we’ve been able to still compete at a really high level,” Moore said.
That, along with great shooting numbers could prove to be the difference in Westmont knocking off the No. 1 team in the country today at 5:30 p.m at Murchison Gymnasium.
Here are some other numbers that could help the Warriors come Saturday:
9-1: The Warriors record against the Mustangs in their last 10 meetings. The lone loss came last season at Santa Clarita.
58.7: Points per game Westmont gives up so far this season. That mark ranks No. 27 in the NAIA.
37.9%: shooting from three-point range this season by Westmont leads the conference. That mark is also the sixth-best in the entire NAIA.
27.5%: 3-point shooting is what teams average against Westmont, which leads the conference.
7: is the amount of turnovers Westmont averages per game, a conference low. No other team averages single-digit turnovers per contest.
72: points per game the Warriors average, which is the third-highest mark in the GSAC.
1.82: is Westmont’s NAIA-leading assist to turnover ratio. The Warriors have 248 assists to just 136 turnovers.
3: players are in the top-5 in the conference in 3-point shooting, Taylor Rarick (48.1%), Maud Ranger (44.6%) and Krissy Miyahara (41.8%).
11.5: rebounds per game is what Maud Ranger is currently averaging through six GSAC games. That is the highest total in the conference despite her being just 5-7.
57.1%: is how well Taylor Rarick is shooting from deep in GSAC play. Her 48.1% shooting from deep for the season is also the best mark in the conference.
6: assists per game Iyree Jarrett is averaging through six games of GSAC play which is tied for the second-most in the conference.
6.0: is Stefanie Berberabe league-leading assists to turnover ratio during conference play. Her 3.3 ratio for the season is second best.