SAN LUIS OBISPO (November 29, 2016)— Women’s Basketball is back in contention after a year of injuries and setbacks. Coach Ron Barba’s (97-83/7th) says, “This team has come to play and we are going to surprise some people!” The Cuesta roster boasts only two sophomores on a young and talented team, but Barba likes the way the team has progressed and come together. He says, “This is an enjoyable group. They work hard and get along as a team.” The Cougars lack size, however the team’s depth is growing with some players joining the squad from other sports and others overcoming pre-season injuries. Coach Barba says, “Our tough pre-season has been good for what we are trying to do. We have played seven or eight ranked teams to start the season!” Cougars have versatility at every position, so with Coach Barba’s signature suffocating defense and a dynamic offense attack the Cougars plan to be back in the mix this Winter. He says, “We are always working on the fundamentals!”

The Cougars are 6-3 after their first three tournaments, however all three losses came against ranked foes. The Cougars have been tested early in the season and the play their first home game is scheduled for December 1 against College of the Desert in the Phillips 66 Tournament.

Below is a breakdown of the Cougars Roster By Uniform Number.

#11) Butte College transfer Tawny Lino (Santa Maria: Pioneer Valley HS) earned all PAC-7 honors for the Panthers, but sat out the 2015-16 season in Chico. She is locked in as the Cougars’ starting point guard and leads the team with 4.0 assists per game. Lino enjoyed a ten assist-game in the Cougars November 20 win over San Mateo, which were the most by a Cuesta player since Rachael Warner dished out 11 assists against Monterey Peninsula on November 23, 2010. Lino is also netting 12.8 points per contest and on defense she leads the team with 4.3 steals per game. Coach Barba says, “Tawny is a fun player to watch. She has a lot of quickness and transitions well. She also has a nice outside shot.”

#12) Freshman from “Down Under” Madison Collins (Eltham, AUS) has made an immediate impact for the Cougars. She has averaged 18.7 points and 10.7 rebounds over the Cougars’ first nine contests. Coach Barba says, “She is more of a perimeter player, but she is aggressive. She can rebound, so we are using her inside. Madison has an infectious work ethic and is a great kid to have in the program.”

#14) Notre Dame de Namur transfer Taylor Neal (San Luis Obispo: Mission Prep) and her twin sister are the only two sophomores on the Cuesta roster. Neal played in one game for the Argonauts, but is projected as a starter for the Cougars. She is currently second on the team in scoring and rebounds per game with 13.8 points and 7.3 boards per contest. Neal was an all-CIF First Team pick for the Royals in 2015 and has impressed early at Cuesta. Coach Barba says, “She is an underrated guard. Taylor is very quick and an explosive player with a good jumper. She works hard!”

#20) All-CIF Freshman Courtney Barba (Santa Maria: Righetti HS) is the only true freshman in the Cougars’ starting line up and has entered her freshman season playing like a veteran. Barba earned all-PAC 8 honors three times at Righetti High and was already very familiar with the Cougars’ system before she stepped on campus, because she also happens to be the Coach Barba’s daughter. She is the Cougars’ top outside shooter and is converting 40% of her three point attempts, while averaging 11.1 points per game. Barba is also second on the team in assists and steals at 2.7 and 3.7 per game, respectively. Coach Barba says of his daughter, “We got her for defense and I knew she could shoot. Courtney has a winning attitude, works hard. She is a tall guard, who offers versatility.”

#21) Freshman Brooke Larson (Redding) played basketball at Foothill High, but also ran track and earned a scholarship for choir. Coach Barba says, “Brooke has a good work ethic and is really improving each day. She is earning experience and developing her shot.”

#22) First-year player Camille LeBlanc (Atascadero HS) is back on the hardwood after earning all-PAC 7 honors back in 2013. LeBlanc attended UC Irvine and the University of Maryland, but the former Anteater and Terrapin has landed back at Cuesta. She has been the Cougars’ sixth-man this season and is averaging 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Coach Barba says, “Camille is an interesting player. She drives well and can hit the deep shot. She is a good person to have on the team.”

#23) Two-time All-SLO County selection Gwen Lundy (Grass Valley: Paso Robles HS) has spent the pre-season recovering from surgery, however she is expected back on the floor in January. Lundy is a superior athlete and also won league titles at Paso Robles High during track season in both the high jump and hurdles. She should give the Cougars a boost just as they enter Western State Conference play. Coach Barba has high expectations for Lundy and says, “She can play all five spots on the floor. She could be big time.”

#30) Two-sport Athlete Abby Van Kirk (Sonoma) joined the basketball team after water polo season. Van Kirk played water polo for the Cougars the past two seasons and has been out of basketball for several years. Coach Barba has given her time to adjust to the hardwood and to his brand of basketball. He says, “Abby will add depth in the paint. We will need her to rebound.”  

#31) Two-sport Athlete Hannah Katches (Paso Robles HS) joined the basketball team after volleyball season. She missed the Cougars’ first three tournaments, but adds height in the paint as the Cougars’ lone six-footer. Katches has a nice shot around the basket and should give the Cougars a different look off the bench. She is coming off a solid volleyball season and was fourth on the team with both 114 kills and 35 blocks.

#33) Notre Dame de Namur transfer Dolores Neal (San Luis Obispo: Mission Prep) and her twin sister, Taylor, are the only two sophomores on the Cuesta roster. Neal played in five games for the Argonauts and averaged 1.8 points per game. Neal has found success this season as an undersized power forward. She is averaging 8.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game this season, however she has also fouled out of six of the Cougars’ nine contests. Coach Barba says, “Dolores rebounds and scores. She can play multiple positions in our set. She is very intense, works hard and, pushes herself, but has too many fouls.”

#41) Freshman Daijah Bridge (Templeton HS) is currently scoring and rebounding ahead of her high school averages as the Cougars’ second player off the bench.   Coach Barba says, “Daijah works hard and is developing. She is an aggressive player.”