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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Unhappy ending

It was a very strange feeling: a combination of shock, sadness, frustration and confusion.

The UC Davis women’s basketball team stood in a line in the center of Hamilton Court, singing the alma mater as they do after every home contest.

But this time it was different.

The alumni were silent, the Aggie Pack stood in tentative respect and seniors Hana Asano, Laurent Juric, Samantha Meggison and Kasey Riecks choked back tears as they paid respect to the Pavilion’s fans for the last time.

The Aggies had been knocked out in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament for the first time since 2009.

While losing to the Pacific Tigers could not truly be classified as an upset, with two wins over its rivals from Stockton in the regular season, UC Davis would have expected to come away victorious and book a place in the tournament’s second round at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

It was a strange game from start to finish.

From the Aggies’ bizarrely uncharacteristic 17 percent shooting in the first half and three pointers that were well off the mark, to the Pacific three pointer that rattled off the glass and in to kill UC Davis’ momentum right after the Aggies had cut the lead to single digits (despite what some Stockton media may say, I will never believe that Tiger Erica Mckenzie intended to bank that shot).

From the final few minutes of regulation to 15 minutes after the game ended when Riecks continued to battle her emotions in the post-game interviews, one sentiment seemed to permeate all of those affiliated with UC Davis: it wasn’t supposed to end this way.

The four of the Aggie seniors are a group that has been a part of some remarkable accomplishments in their time at UC Davis.

They helped the university in its transition to Division I, and were part of UC Davis’ most successful major sport at the Division I level.

All four players contributed to UC Davis’ Big West regular season title in 2010, and Meggison, Riecks and Asano all started on the Aggies’ NCAA Tournament team last season, while Juric was a major contributor off the bench.

When healthy, the four players made up the core of UC Davis’ starting lineup this season.

But this senior class was far more than just a group that accomplished a great deal on the floor.

They were a group that will go down in the history of UC Davis women’s basketball for setting records, winning conference titles, helping the program evolve and most importantly doing it the right way.

Anyone who took just a few minutes to listen to the seniors’ post-game comments could tell that they cared deeply about the UC Davis program.

“Everything that has happened these last four years has been incredible,” Riecks said. “Being a part of this program is amazing. People don’t understand how special this program really is.”

Their work ethic and leadership skills have been lauded in depth by both legendary former head coach Sandy Simpson and current head coach Jennifer Gross.

And yet all that these seniors have given to the UC Davis women’s basketball program makes the prospect of never seeing them play again just that much more frustrating. They deserved to go out in far better fashion and there is still a chance that they could.

The women’s NIT will make its selections today, and with UC Davis currently in the top 150 nationally in terms of RPI, it is on the bubble for tournament selection.

The WNIT does not hold a candle to an NCAA Tournament appearance, but it could give these seniors one more chance to show what they can do, and more importantly to help diminish the memories of the aberration of a game that played last Tuesday on Hamilton Court.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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