Coming off a stellar first season at Fresno State and after rejecting an offseason job offer, women's basketball coach Raegan Pebley is back to settle "unfinished business."
"In offseasons there can be some things that can distract players and coaches. But I came here to Fresno State because I felt led to be here," said Pebley, who in May passed on the job at Mountain West Conference rival San Diego State. "There was a lot of work I was sent here to do and be a part of."
Pebley arrived last year from Utah State and led the Bulldogs to a 24-9 record that included a Mountain West Conference tournament title and the program's sixth straight NCAA Tournament bid.
Fresno State is the preseason favorite to repeat in the conference, but it won't come easy after losing starters and leading scorers Ki-Ki Moore (transfer) and Rosie Moult (graduation).
Moore, now at University of the Pacific, averaged team highs of 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and led in steals with 103. Moult averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Pebley isn't letting up. Last Thursday, practice went an hour longer than scheduled as she ran defensive drills with her players.
"Every practice is precious where we only get to focus on ourselves," she said. "Our offense, our defense, our collective conditioning. All of that. We're pushing them pretty hard right now."
The Bulldogs have three returning starters in 5-foot-5 guard and preseason All-Mountain West selection Taylor Thompson (10.3 ppg, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.7 steals), 5-10 guard Bree Farley (8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), and 6-1 forward Alex Sheedy (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Thompson and Farley are seniors and Sheedy a junior.
Redshirt junior Alex Furr, a 5-5 guard, returns after missing the past two seasons with a knee injury.
Moriah Faulk, a 5-10 sophomore transfer guard from UCLA who redshirted last season, will suit up for the first time for Fresno State.
"I'm really excited," said Faulk, a Santa Monica High alum who played in 15 games with the Bruins in 2011-12, averaging 5.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.
"It was hard to watch last year, but I love our offense. Once we get in great shape it will be a lot of fun and we're going to win a lot of games."
For Thompson and Farley, they want one last chance to extend their streak of conference titles that began under former coach Adrian Wiggins. And they as individuals as well as the program are still searching for that elusive first NCAA Tournament win.
The Bulldogs were picked to finish first in the Mountain West by league coaches and media last week, but the players say the most important expectations are those they put on themselves.
"It doesn't really matter what other people think of us. We always want to be the champions," said Farley. "We want to do something our school has never done before, which is go to the second round of the NCAA Tournament."
Fresno State will tune up with a 2 p.m. Nov. 3 exhibition against Notre Dame de Namur at the Save Mart Center. The regular-season opener is Nov. 8, when it hosts UC Merced at 7 p.m.
"It was hard to watch last year, but I love our offense. Once we get in great shape it will be a lot of fun and we're going to win a lot of games." — Moriah Faulk, Fresno State guard who transferred from UCLA and had to sit out last season
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