On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of parallels between the 2008-2009 UC Davis women’s basketball team and the 1982 morgue-attendant inspired film “Night Shift.“
Unless, of course, your name is Sandy Simpson.
“There’s a scene where they’re in jail,” the UC Davis women’s basketball coach said. “This one guy says, ‘You know, it can’t get any worse than this.‘ Then he turns around, sees something else happen, turns back and says, ‘I was wrong.‘ That’s kind of how I feel.“
Who can blame him? Every time Simpson turns around, something bad happens, usually leaving him with one less player on his fast-shrinking roster.
From Vicky Deely and Haylee Donaghe suffering season-ending knee injuries to Genevieve Costello (ankle) and Paige Mintun (concussion) going down at Friday’s practice, the Aggies haven’t been dodging the injury bug this season.
In fact, they’re chasing after it as quickly as they can. If things keep up at this rate, the team will be holding open tryouts effective yesterday.
“We lost Vicky, then we lost Haylee and then I think, ‘Oh, it can’t get any worse than this,‘” Simpson said. “Then I’m watching Genevieve writhing around in pain on the ground. Then I see Paige run off the court in a bit of a fog and I say, ‘Well, I guess it can get worse.‘”
When the Aggies took the floor at the Pavilion on Saturday to face UC Riverside, they had just seven players in uniform.
Seven players. Seven. Six freshmen. To face a UC Riverside team that had lost just one Big West Conference game in nine chances, the lone defeat coming against undefeated UC Santa Barbara.
On paper, the Highlanders were supposed to run away with things on Saturday night.
In reality, the Aggies gave them all they could handle.
UC Davis‘ roster of the walking wounded held UC Riverside to 25.9 percent shooting, forcing overtime before the favored Highlanders squeaked out a 47-44 win.
“It almost felt magical,” said Kasey Riecks, who played all 45 minutes and scored 11 points. “We’ve never been so pumped up for a game. People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, they have seven players, Riverside has only lost one game.‘
“We were proving everybody wrong. …We knew we could do it. Maybe no one else knew, but we knew.“
The fact of the matter is simple: UC Davis pushed arguably the Big West’s best team to overtime. With seven players.
If there ever was such a thing as a moral victory, the Aggies picked one up Saturday night.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the win, but it almost felt as good,” said Hana Asano, who started at point guard in place of the injured Costello. “One of the nice things about this season is we’ve faced adversity – a lot of it – from the very beginning.
“We’ve fought through things. We never let down. …We have so much Aggie pride, even as freshmen, that it almost hurts.”
It should be UC Davis‘ opponents that are doing the hurting in the not so distant future.
The six freshmen that played in Saturday’s game against UC Riverside – Riecks, Asano, Cortney French, Lauren Juric, Samantha Meggison and Lisa Peterson – have been racking up big minutes, picking up a world of experience in the process.
When you think about taking those six and pairing them with Mintun, Donaghe and Deely, it’s scary.
When you think about adding Anna Harp, who’s redshirting this season due to injury (go figure), and Heidi Heintz, a transfer from San Francisco who Simpson said “has as good a head for the game as anybody I’ve coached in 30 years,” to the equation, the future of the UC Davis women’s basketball program is looking very, very good. Crazy good.
That’s not saying this season is over. Far from it.
The Aggies‘ future rests in the development of its current freshman class – a class that showed on Saturday that it’s already a force to be reckoned with.
“We’re anxious to see if we can build on this,” Simpson said. “That’s the question for them: Are they tough enough to build on tonight and carry this forward?”
ADAM LOBERSTEIN has exceeded his inch count, leaving him no space to offer additional commentary here. He can be reached at email@example.com.