Women’s basketball in the Big West Conference had become monotonous.
In the 2005-2006 season, UC Riverside finished first, and UC Santa Barbara took second. In 2006-2007, UC Riverside finished first and UCSB took second. Entering this season, the media and coaches predicted that UC Riverside would finish first and UCSB would take second.
Women’s basketball in the Big West Conference had become monotonous, but it is no longer.
In its first season in Division I and the Big West, UC Davis has disturbed the peace, defeating two-time defending champion UC Riverside on Friday, 63-53, and finishing second in the conference Saturday behind NCAA Tournament-bound UCSB.
With that, a new era has begun in the Big West.
As the conference’s top finisher in the regular season to not make the NCAA Tournament, UC Davis has received an automatic berth to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. It will mark the first time since 1998 that a Big West team other than UC Riverside or UCSB has qualified for a postseason.
It’s always nice to keep playing, said senior wing Jessica Campbell, an All-Big West Tournament selection. I’m glad that we have more games left in our season…. We probably have a better chance of going further in the WNIT than we would in the tournament, so maybe that’s a bright spot in [not winning the Big West].
Though the team left Anaheim disappointed with not winning the conference, it has plenty to be proud of, and so does this university.
It begins with the fan support.
On Thursday, a group of about 30 students and staff members came together at the Pavilion to send the team off before it headed to the Sacramento International Airport for its flight.
Then, Saturday night, 15 students welcomed the team back to Northern California with signs and balloons at the airport.
Despite the 400-plus mile trip to Southern California, a bus of over 20 students traveled to Anaheim to root on the team. Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, athletic director Greg Warzecka, Vice Chancellor Fred Wood and other campus administrators also found their way to the tournament.
And then there was the band.
On a foreign court in a foreign town, UC Davis heard a familiar sound erupt in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena. Two minutes into the pre-game warm-ups, the California Aggie Marching Band-Uh! marched out at full volume.
It felt just like we were at home again, said sophomore guard Anna Harp. All the familiar songs, having the Aggie Pack there – it felt good. It was just like home.
Along with having more fan support than UC Riverside, which was practically playing a home game, the university should take pride in how it was represented this weekend.
Simply put, the Aggies played for the right reasons.
We just did it for each other, did it for the fans, everyone who’s supporting us, said junior wing Haylee Donaghe. We wanted to go out there and show them what UC Davis basketball is all about.
They did that, and now, after disturbing the peace in the Big West and qualifying for the WNIT, the Aggies aren’t done making noise.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN went to Anaheim and back. Greatest piece of advice to give after 14 hours on the road: If you get the chance to visit the town of Coalinga, don’t. The place smells horrible. You might as well shove your head down a port-a-potty and inhale. Seriously. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.