The UCSD women’s basketball players have already had a stellar season this year: They are the university’s first-ever California Collegiate Athletic Association champions in women’s basketball, they have a perfect road record, their head coach Janell Jones was recently named CCAA Coach of the Year and they have the two-time CCAA Most Valuable Player in 5 foot, 10 inch star senior guard Leora Juster.
Sophomore forward Michelle Osier earned CCAA First Team honors, along with two other teammates, for her second straight year with an average of 11.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Now, the Tritons are looking to continue their assault on the UCSD athletic record books by traveling deeper into the postseason, which will begin when No. 1 seed UCSD hosts No. 8 seed Western Washington University on March 9 at 8 p.m. in RIMAC Arena at the Division II West Regional Tournament.
The two teams have not met since earlier this season. In that game on Dec. 20, the Tritons took advantage of a 34-point night from Juster to beat Western Washington University 83-64.
“”It does help that we’ve seen them already this season because not only can we watch tape of them playing other teams, we can point out our weaknesses and strengths in our game against them,”” sophomore forward Michelle Osier said.
Jones also believes that the Tritons have an advantage in this game, although for different reasons.
“”The biggest advantage for us is that we will hopefully be playing in front of a big home crowd,”” she said.
UCSD will host the regional tournament after going 23-4 in the regular season and winning the CCAA championship with the best record in the division.
Considering their perfect 12-0 away record, playing at home is more of an honor than a necessity for the Tritons.
“”Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we play because we can win wherever we go,”” Osier said. “”But it is an honor since [UCSD] has never won CCAA and has never been ranked first in the region.””
Western Washington University currently holds an 18-9 record but has only won four out of its 10 away games. Leading the Vikings in points and assists per game is senior guard Mollie Shelmack, with 15.9 points and 3.4 assists.
The Tritons are less concerned about what the Vikings are going to bring to the game and more concerned with their own play.
“”This is the time of the year that you go to your strengths,”” Jones said.
This UCSD team has a lot of strengths and contributions from a variety of players. Although MVP Juster and First Team selections Osier and senior forward Hillary Hansen provide most of the points for the Tritons, other players have been key to the success of the team so far. Junior center Jillian Ricks leads the Tritons with 20 blocks and junior forward Meaghan Noud has been an invaluable sixth-woman, averaging 9.2 points per game off the bench.
It also can’t hurt that the Tritons have this year’s CCAA coach of the year in Jones.
“”She runs very intensive practices and that really prepares us for games,”” Osier said. “”At important points in the game, she knows what to do. She really knows how to coach.””
With a lot of the players from last year’s squad still on the team, experience will undoubtedly be useful this year as last year’s team was the No. 4 seed and suffered a first-round loss to Seattle Pacific University in the postseason.
“”It makes a big difference that we are older this year,”” Osier said. “”The experience from last year’s playoffs will definitely help. Last year, we were scared and we were drained from the anticipation of playing a playoff game. Now, we know what to expect, and we can prepare.””