OPINION: Women’s basketball breaks records, still receives less support

Most underrated team in Sacramento makes school history despite lack of fans


Siany Harts

In 2022-2023 the Sacramento State men’s basketball team averaged 200 more people in attendance than the women’s team; that women’s team made the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. “It doesn’t really matter how well we’re doing or how well they’re doing, the men’s team will kind of always have more support than us,” Sac State women’s basketball player Katie Peneueta said. (Graphic made in Canva by Siany Harts)

Siany Harts

While seeing nearly seven-foot-tall men dunking the ball may be a bigger spectacle than watching six-foot-tall women laying it up, basketball is basketball.

The game is played the same no matter who’s playing it. As a matter of fact, Sacramento State’s women’s basketball team did it better this season. 

The Sac State women’s basketball team recorded their best season this year, while the men’s team struggled to gain traction. The lady Hornets made their mark on school history by making it to March Madness for the first time while also winning the Big Sky conference title. 

Senior guard Kahlaijah Dean, junior center Isnelle Natabou and sophomore guard Katie Peneueta had standout seasons, boosting team success, but they still don’t fill the seats as much as men’s basketball games, despite the better talent. 

“It doesn’t really matter how well we’re doing or how well they’re doing,” Peneueta said. “The men’s team will kind of always have more support than us.” 

Throughout the season, the women’s team averages 519 people in the stands per regular season game, while the men’s team averages 748 people. 

Story continues below graphic.

Over thirteen regular season games, the women’s team has had a total of 6,749 people in attendance versus the men’s team’s 9,728. 

This lower fan turnout is no surprise to senior guard Kaylin Randhawa. 

“Being at a smaller Division 1 school in the Big Sky and playing for mid-majors, you don't see as much [support],” Randhawa said. “You only typically see large crowds for women's teams if you're a top team in the nation.” 

Although the men’s team does what it can to show up for the women’s basketball team,  they, too, recognize the disparities in student support. It has become crystal clear to both teams that winning more games does not amount to more fans. 

“I don’t think they get equal support,” said Gianni Hunt, junior guard on the Sac State men’s basketball team. “They had evidently a better season than us record-wise and we still had more in attendance.” 

Reflecting on the reasoning behind all this, theories of men’s basketball holding the reputation of being more entertaining and more respected were common between players of both teams. 

“As bad as it is to say, some people don’t take women's sports as seriously as they should or just don’t give it the same type of respect, which I don’t condone,” Hunt said.   “They put in the same amount of work.”

The game of women’s basketball focuses on fundamental skills compared to the physicality of men’s basketball. Rather than feeling discouraged by these differences, the Sacramento State women’s team embraces their skill-based gameplay.

“I think men’s basketball is so different when it comes to athletic abilities, some people are more entertained by it,” junior center Isnelle Natabou said. “In my opinion, both genders have something wonderful to offer.”

Natabou entered the transfer portal on March 23, following Sac State’s loss to UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

For the women’s team, a quiet, sometimes empty gym is no deterrent to their goals. When a team of high-scoring players comes together with this much chemistry, success is inevitable.

“The secret to success is knowing what your goals are and executing them to the best of your ability,” Peneueta said. “Everybody knew their roles and everybody knew what they needed to do and we all completed our jobs at a high level and that’s why we succeeded.”

The players had no choice but to believe the hype as the team saw more and more success throughout the season and into the Big Sky tournament.

Whether The Nest is empty or packed, the women’s team has proven that they ball regardless. Giving her all whenever she steps on the court, Natabou said she does it for her own sake, not the interest of others.

“I am playing for my team; I am playing for myself,” Natabou said. “There could be only 20 people in the stands cheering and I will be equally happy as [if] 15,000 [attendees were in the] arena.”