As the 2015-16 school year winds down, so too do the careers of many Sacramento State student-athletes, leaving some pretty big shoes to fill for underclassmen.
While losing senior leadership will be a tough blow for Hornet sports to take, there are many freshmen and sophomores who have stepped up this year, providing a pretty good idea that the future is bright for Sac State athletics.
Many of the top performers in Hornet sports this year were underclassmen, meaning that Sac State sports fans should feel comfortable knowing that there are plenty of cornerstone players with multiple years of eligibility left.
In fact, the soon-to-be quarterback for the Hornets, Nate Ketteringham, is just entering his second season and has already put up some impressive statistics with a completion percentage of 61.5, 1,410 passing yards and a touchdown-interception ratio of 11-to-3 in his freshman year.
For men’s basketball, two of the best players were sophomores Marcus Graves and Justin Strings, who led the team in scoring and was extremely efficient, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Strings is entering his junior year as perhaps the Hornets’ best player and is confident that the system head coach Brian Katz has put in place will allow him to transition into a leadership role seamlessly when it is his turn.
“Next year, me and Marcus will be the support system for our seniors and we’re really confident in them,” Strings said. “When I’m a senior, I know we’re going to have a great group of guys that will support me no matter what. Coach Katz puts a big emphasis on leadership, so all of our guys will be ready.”
The Sac State women’s basketball team will likely rely on sophomore Maranne Johnson to lead the team in the future with team leader and senior Adella Randle-El leaving. Johnson was third on the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game and was one of the better 3-point shooters on the team.
Johnson said she is very comfortable with where the women’s basketball team is at right now with much of the team returning and a wealth of juniors to take over the program.
“Since there’s a majority of us coming back and we’ve only lost three seniors, I feel like we all know what needs to be done,” Johnson said. “This year, we have a lot of new players coming in so as a junior, I am also going to try to be a leader and set an example of what needs to be done when it gets serious.”
In gymnastics, the Hornets are losing one of the most accomplished athletes in Sac State history with senior Kalliah McCartney leaving many school records behind as she moves on.
However, as McCartney exits, sophomore Lauren Rice, who was a close second on the team with an average all-around score of 38.980, should be a suitable new leader for the program with her energetic brand of gymnastics that excites fans and teammates.
The Sac State men’s soccer team is in good hands with a limited number of departures. Additionally, redshirt freshman Brad Bumgarner, the team’s leading goal-scorer, was recently named Newcomer of the Year at the fifth annual Green and Golden Globe awards on May 2.
“This year, we didn’t have that many seniors graduate, so our captains that we have now I think will do a pretty good job,” Bumgarner said. “I don’t think the [leadership] role falls on my recruiting class yet, but when it gets there, I feel like our class will do a pretty good job getting our teammates ready for games.”
On the pitch for the women’s side, the Hornets will be led by sophomore Kayla Collins, who tied for the team lead in goals with seven and led the team in assists with six. Collins played a part in 13 of the Hornets’ 29 goals this season, an impressive 44.8 percent.
Sac State women’s golf will be without senior leader Rockelle Sande moving forward, but should be ready to keep competing for the Big Sky conference title behind sophomore Astha Madan, the team leader in scoring average, and freshman Julia Becker, who put forth the team’s best single-round score this season with a 68 in the final round of the Big Sky Conference Championship to tie a school record.
On the diamond, the Hornets are pretty set up for the future with many talented young players at the freshman and sophomore levels.
Freshman Matt Smith has been one of the best players on the baseball team this season, with a batting average of .315 and 26 RBIs to place second on the team in both categories, and will likely be the key to the future of the program.
Hornet softball will be led by sophomore Zamari Hinton, who is second on the team in batting average to departing senior Sasha Margulies, and freshman Sydney Rasmussen, who is third on the team in batting average and hits.
The aforementioned athletes will be responsible for leading Hornet athletics in the next two to three years, a task that is no small feat. Leadership is crucial in sports, and the role generally falls on the best players.
Clearly Sac State has the requisite talent to fill that vital role with its collection of young stars in a variety of sports and should be well set up for success in the immediate future.
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