Aggie sports desk Team of the Quarter: Women’s basketball

JORDAN KNOWLES / AGGIE FILE

Team earns title due to record, player stats, multiple conference recognitions

UC Davis’ women’s basketball team had another record-breaking year in leading the league with a 24-5 overall record, earning them the title of Team of the Quarter by The California Aggie’s sports desk. The team earned a second conference regular season title with a 14-2 record in conference play and earned the league title. The Aggies enjoyed a 10-point win over UC Riverside on Feb. 24 during “Senior Day,” and secured the first place title with still a week left to go in the regular season. UC Davis is the first Big West school since 2009 to win outright conference regular season titles, matching the team’s record for Big West wins with a number of 14.

On top of its record, the women’s team, including head coach Jennifer Gross, received several honors towards the end of the regular season. Gross was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, following in the footsteps of previous women’s head coach Sandy Simpson, who received the honor twice for the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 seasons. This is the first time since 2001 that a coach has received the award for two consecutive years.

Junior forward Morgan Bertsch made the the All-Big West first team for the second season in a row. This honor marks Bertsch’s third time being an All-Big West selection, and she is the third player from UC Davis to make the team twice in a single career. She scored double figures in each of the 29 regular season matches; her standout night was on March 1, when she scored 34 points against Cal State Fullerton — third on UC Davis’ all-time single-game list. Bertsch also shot .561 from the court, the third best in the league, and led her team with a 19.8 ppg, the second best in the league. The junior Aggie is only 27 points away from tying Staci Stevens’ single-season scoring record from the 1987-1988 season. Bertsch’s honors round out by placing third in the league on blocked shots (1.7 bpg) and fourth in free throw percentage (.777).

Aside from appearing in the most career games in UC Davis history, fourth-year forward Pele Gianotti received a special nod in her selection for the All-Big West second team. She has set the university’s record for games played and consecutive games played at 125 and has not missed a single game since enrolling at UC Davis. In addition to tying a career-high 26 points in a game this season, Gianotti is in the top 15 in the entire league in six different categories and led the team in rebounding at 5.7 rpg, putting her in the top 15 in the conference.

Senior guard Rachel Nagel received the first honor of her career when she was selected to join her teammate on the conference’s second team. Nagel rounded up the season by hitting double figures 14 different times and earning a career-best 23 points during the team’s contest against Seattle in late November. She finished third on the UC Davis team in scoring with a 10.4 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field and set the bar high by shooting 43 percent from passed the arc — the best number of the entire team.

Fourth-year guard and forward Dani Nafekh finished up the senior class’ nominations with her honorable mention selection. This is Nafekh’s second all-league honor, following in the footsteps of her second-team nod during her junior year season. She ended the season with 72 assists, a 66.9 ppg, shooting 42 percent from the field, and shooting about 41 percent from beyond the arc. Nafekh also finished in double figures seven times over the course of the season and broke her own season-high in mid-January with 18 points when she and the team faced UC Riverside.

Freshman forward Cierra Hall represented women’s basketball’s newest Aggies by being one of five student-athletes to be selected to the All-Freshman Team. She appeared in all but one game this season and similarly reached double figures seven times. Hall also set two career highs with 12 rebounds in mid-January against UC Riverside and 17 points during the contest against Long Beach State on Feb. 1. Hall concluded her first season at 6.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg and she was on par with her older teammates’ numbers with shooting 42 percent from the field and 44 percent  from beyond the arc.

UC Davis’ program is the only one in the entire Big West Conference to have one first-team player since they joined the Big West Conference in 2007. Hall’s achievement makes it the fourth year in a row and eighth time ever that the Aggies have been home to one of the league’s top freshmen; she joins her current teammates Nafekh and Bertsch in that honor.

For the second consecutive year, the Aggies’ first place standing clinched an automatic berth into the Women’s National Invitational Tournament — making this year the sixth time in 11 Division I seasons that the women’s team has made it into the postseason. The performance of the women’s basketball team lead the seven members of the sports desk to unanimously select them as the standout team of Winter Quarter.

 

 

Written by: Kennedy Walker — sports@theaggie.org