The old coach’s adage that even tournament contests are just another game in the scope of a season did not ring true in second-seed UCSD’s first-round match against seventh-seed Cal State San Bernardino.
Last Tuesday, March 5, UCSD head coach Heidi VanDerveer kept senior guards and All-CCAA first-team selections Daisy Feder and Emily Osga on the court for the entirety of the first half and only brought the pair off once the win was secured late in the second period. By the end of the 40 minutes, UCSD came off the court with a 55–46 win, a score that wasn’t indicative of how close the game really was.
Osga and Feder — UCSD’s leading scorers in 19 of the Tritons’ 23 contests — struggled at the start. Osga, the conference’s leader in field goal percentage and three-point percentage, was 1-for-5 in the first 10 minutes. San Bernardino’s run-and-gun style only fatigued Feder, who seemed to be overreaching to compensate for the Triton bench.
“For a lot of people [on the team], it was their first time stepping into significant roles, and so I think the first round of CCAAs was a big stage — even for me, I was a little nervous,” Feder said. “We just came out in the second half and wanted it and knew that we were the better team and doing what we needed to do.”
Whatever VanDerveer said over the break worked. UCSD went on a 6–0 run to start the second half and led by as many as 17 points with 6:25 remaining. Granted, much of UCSD’s improvement can be traced back to the individual efforts of Feder and junior forward Erin Dautremont. Feder picked up 10 of her 14 rebounds and 12 points in the second period. Dautremont — also a CCAA first-team selection — went 3-for-4 from the field for eight points in the second half.
Once UCSD was able to dictate tempo, and once the Tritons reined in play from Coyote shooters Alexcia Mack and Eliza Dy, UCSD had no problem maintaining the lead in the second half.
“It was important for us to come out and make a statement,” Feder said. “We definitely didn’t play our best basketball tonight, and there’s definitely a lot of things we did wrong, but we’re going to take this into Friday and hopefully learn from our mistakes and be even better Friday.”
The Tritons will advance to the semifinal round this Friday, March 8 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. The Tritons will face third-seed Cal State Monterey Bay, the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 CCAA tournament champions. UCSD took the Otters down twice in regular season play, but Monterey Bay has a history of over-performing in playoff settings.
“I’m glad that we made it to Friday, and we’ve never made it to a conference tournament, so I think it’s something that we’re really hungry for,” Feder said. “Hopefully, we’ll come out and play hard.”
Unlike last season, when the No. 2 Tritons went into the conference tournament guaranteed a spot at the NCAA Division II West Regionals, UCSD may very well need a win in the semifinal round to secure a place in the national tournament. Currently, the Tritons are ranked No. 6 in the West. No. 3 Chico State and No. 4 Cal State Monterey Bay are the only two other CCAA teams included in the regional rankings.
The winners of the CCAA, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and Pacific West Conference tournaments will all earn automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.