Center Lauren Freidenberg alongside guards Daisy Feder and Chelsea Carlisle were all in concordance in front of the camera, as the trio seemed to have been this entire season on the court.
“Fight,” was the word UCSD head coach Charity Elliott’s first recruiting class all agreed upon.
With two wins under their belt in the NCAA Division II Tournament, the No. 4 Tritons head into the Round of Sixteen against No. 8 Alaska Anchorage.
On Friday, coming off a loss in the CCAA conference semifinal, the first-seeded Tritons rebounded to take a 66-84 win against last-seeded CCAA opponent Chico State.
The Tritons maintained a double-digit lead over the Wildcats all throughout the second half, as UCSD took its third season win over Chico State.
“We’re just excited and glad to get this one under our belt,” Elliott said. “We knew Chico would come out and battle as they always do. What I loved tonight was our energy, our intensity on both ends of the floor.”
Chico State struggled from the onset as it went without junior point guard Synchro Bull, the Wildcats’ leading points scorer, as well as Chico’s leader in steals and assists. The absence of Bull pushed Chico guard Courtney Hamilton into the point guard position, hurting the Wildcats as they lost their spot-up shooter.
The Tritons took a 12-1 lead within the first five minutes of play off back-to-back Carlisle three pointers. With an early lead, Elliott elected to bring Freidenberg off the court, in anticipation for Saturday night’s contest against fourth-seed Western Washington. The center was replaced by freshman McKennan Bertsch, who has logged time in just 11 of the Tritons’ 32 contests thus far. Bertsch had a big game, recording six points in her 16 minutes on the court.
The Tritons ended the half with a 19-point lead, which they extended to as much as 27 in the second half.
“We really try and take it one game at a time,” Carlisle said. “We say respect everyone but fear no one, and we really try and take it with that mentality. All these teams are fighting for their season and we have to do the same thing. It was really good for us to fight the way that we fought.”
On Saturday, the Tritons faced Western Washington in the Round of 32.
UCSD had faced Western Washington once before coming, beating the Vikings 79-60 on Saturday, Nov. 12.
UCSD pushed tempo from the start against the bigger, but slower Western Washington. With five six-footers in tow, Freidenberg had her hands full on the block, but the 6’1” senior came out big.
Freidenberg hit six consecutive points in the first four minutes, to put the Tritons up 11-5, while her aggressiveness on the boards forced the Vikings into foul trouble early.
From there, UCSD caught fire, pushing the lead out to 23-9, although Osga and Feder—the teams’ second and third highest points scorers — had yet to score.
When asked about the difference in UCSD’s game over the course of the five-month season, Western Washington head coach Carmen Dolfo said the Triton bench has had a greater impact on the game.
“I think the biggest change was that I thought their bench did a great job,” Dolfo said. “I think at the beginning of the year, it was just their four. I was impressed with their whole team, coming off the bench.”
UCSD sixth man Megan Perry ended the first half with five points, off two-of-two shooting from behind the arc. The Tritons ended the first period with a 50-27 lead.
“I thought the way that we came out in the first half was some of the best basketball we’ve played all year, and I was very pleased with the energy and focus,” Charity Elliott said. “Our kids just did a great job. We beat a very good Western Washington team tonight and I’m proud of how we were able to get them on their heels early on.”
Despite shooting 7-of-22 in the second half, Western Washington never managed to cut UCSD’s lead to less than 11 points.
Carlisle led UCSD in scoring, finishing with 20 points, while Feder and Freidenberg both chipped in 19 points and 14 points respectively.
“Being tough, that’s what the playoffs are about,” Carlisle said. “The teams that get to this point, they’re great teams.”
UCSD will now face fourth-seed Alaska Anchorage in the Sweet Sixteen.
Members of the Great Northwest Athletics Conference, the Seawolves also defeated Western Washington in their last conference game of the season by 15 points.
“I think that Anchorage has a great inside game. Their posts will step up,” “San Diego has a great transition game, whereas Anchorage has the inside game. They’re a very different team, so it should be a good game.”
The West Regional final is slated for Monday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at RIMAC Arena.