Tritons Ready for CCAA Title Run

    Junior forward Erin Noonan dribbles around a defender in the Tritons’ preseason game against Biola University on Nov. 1. Noonan is one of three returning starters for the women’s basketball team this season. (John Hanacek/Guardian)

    WOMEN’S BASKETBALL — According to head coach Charity Elliot, the key to success for the UCSD women’s basketball team this season is defense. It’s the same key she introduced to last year’s squad, which finished 25-10, 14-6 California Collegiate Athletic Association with an appearance in the NCAA Division-II West Regional Semifinal game.

    This year, the Tritons look to up their intensity on the defensive side of the court. Elliot has made a point of stressing ball pressure as a focus for the team and has implemented several fullcourt presses to utilize this strength.

    “We have a very defensive mindset and we want to be known for our pressure defense,” Elliot said. “Our ball pressure sets up our defense to be very up-tempo, with lots of pressuring and trapping, and we still have some things we haven’t put in quite yet.”

    The Triton squad will apply the defensive pressure with several familiar faces, including three-time All-Conference First-Team senior forward Michelle Osier and returning starters senior center Alexis Gaskin and junior forward Erin Noonan. Accompanying the trio in the starting lineup are junior guards Annette Ilg and Leilani Martin, a transfer from Foothill College, who have the responsibility of keeping the opposing teams’ offenses stymied by harassing its guards.

    Though depth was a concern for the team at the start of the year, several newcomers and transfer players have put the team in a good place. As a co-captain, Ilg said she feels that the Tritons have already made big strides in coming together as a team, which was a concern with so many new faces.

    “We’ve proven that we can trust one another and it can only get better,” she said.

    Elliot has also instituted a motion offense, but said that it will take time for the team to understand the system. For now, her goal is simply to give opportunities to the players who can make plays happen on their own.

    “We have some players that can create and we’re trying to put them in positions where they can be most effective,” Elliot said. “Our offense has a long way to go, though you never want to be peaking at this time of the season anyway — and we’re not close.”

    Until the Tritons learn the new offense, the players expect to rely on their defense, creating turnovers that they can expand into fast-break opportunities.

    “We really want to be able to run the other team out of the gym,” Ilg said. “We’re working on reading screens and knowing our teammates in the motion offense, but until then we have to be able to fast break.”

    In the CCAA preseason coaches’ poll, the Tritons were picked to finish second in the conference behind rival Chico State. Elliot acknowledged that the poll holds her team with high esteem, but cautions that the team’s season hasn’t even started.
    “It was a sign of respect for our returners because we play in such a tough conference,” Elliot said. “But every coach will say that preseason rankings mean nothing.”

    Ilg said she believes the team held itself to a high standard even before the preseason rankings were released.

    “We have high expectations and we are not going to settle,” Ilg said. “We train every day to be the best — nothing else.”

    Elliot hopes that this mindset, in addition to the team’s defensive energy, will draw in more spectators in support of the team.

    “We need fans to be there,” Elliot said. “We’re representing the entire student body every time we step on the floor, and we’re trying to do that with a lot of integrity, class and heart. This is what college basketball is about. Getting behind your team and supporting them — we need that.”

    The Tritons play an exhibition game against cross-town rival University of San Diego on Nov. 14 before starting their regular season at home on Nov. 16 against Dixie State College.

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