With 11 minutes left in the first round of the 2014 Big West Tournament, junior forward Alyson Doherty suffered a devastating knee injury during a win against UC Santa Barbara in April.
“I got chills, just bringing it back up,” Doherty said.
The injury sidelined Doherty for the second round of the tournament, a one-point loss against UC Irvine. Doherty finished the 2013-14 season with 13.1 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game, and a conference-leading 56.4 shooting percentage.
In spite of the season-ending injury, Doherty remained resilient through the off-season and throughout the rehabilitation process.
“When I found out [about the severity of the injury] I was devastated. Once I had my surgery, I was incredibly determined to come back. We were on a roll at that point; there was no doubt in my mind that we were on our way to the Honda Center,” Doherty said.
At the time of the injury, the Aggies were just three wins away from claiming their first Big West Tournament Championship title since UC Davis defeated Cal Poly in the 2011 Championship game.
The Aggies were playing the best basketball the team had played all season during the tournament. Defensively, UC Davis held opponents to a 38.3 shooting percentage, second-lowest in the conference, during the regular season. On the other side of the floor, the Aggies had the best shooting percentage in the conference, 44.5 percent, and averaged 14.8 assists per game.
The absence of Doherty truly hurt the Aggies’ chances in the second round of the tournament. The Aggies lost a top scorer in Doherty, second to senior forward Sydney Fipps, who scored 17.7 points per game.
However, the Aggies came into the 2014-15 season with the same nucleus of players and a veteran team.
“Once I got injured, it was hard. It was a tough pill to swallow. I just had the determination to come back because we have [a great] team, and we only lost one player,” Doherty said. “I knew that this team was going to come back and that we were going to come back to the Honda Center again, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Thus far this season, UC Davis holds an 8-9 overall record, 3-2 in the Big West. Doherty is back at the top of her game and is averaging 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. But getting to this stage was not easy for Doherty. Doherty had to endure a strenuous rehabilitation program. And once she got back to the court, she had to adapt mentally to the physicality of the game.
“The last time I was playing, I was at the top of my game. So it was hard to come back and be physically OK,” Doherty said. “I was rusty.”
As the season continues, Doherty hopes to improve her game and get back to playing at a high-intensity level to lead the Aggies into the Big West Tournament. This season, Doherty has been a huge part of the Aggies’ offense.
Doherty’s presence on the court has taken a load off Fipps’ back, who has been a consistent force for UC Davis for the past four seasons. It is rare to find a college team with tandem like Doherty and Fipps. The relationship between the two has demonstrated success for the Aggies for the past three seasons.
“Syd and I are great on the court, and we are best friends off the court. Syd is one of the best players this team, this program, this conference has ever seen,” Doherty commented on her relationship with Fipps. “It’s honestly an honor to play with that. She has a lot of confidence in me and that obviously helps a lot. I love playing with her.”
Basketball comes easy for Doherty when she is on the court alongside Fipps. But there are still aspects of the game that need development in order for the team to succeed. Despite ranking second-to-last in rebounds, Doherty iterated the importance of rebounds and that the team is working on improving in that aspect of the game.
“The thing with our rebounds is that we are inconsistent with it. We’ll have games where we rebound 80 percent and then games where we don’t,” Doherty said. “The coaches are holding us more accountable during practice — if we don’t get aboard, we’re on the line and we’re running.”
Doherty is adamant that this team will make a run for the Big West Championship, and credits the team’s experience and leadership.
“I think the key for us is going to be our experience. We are a veteran team this year, we need to come out, and we all know what we need to bring to get to the Honda Center,” Doherty said.
The Aggies will continue on their quest for a Big West Championship as they travel south to face the Cal Poly Mustangs on Thursday and then the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Saturday.