UCSD Shoots for NCAA Tourney Repeat

SPORTS-basketball-20090603205650-0-EJAs the UCSD women’s basketball team prepares to open their regular season this weekend at Grand Canyon University, there’s excitement in the air.

This year’s squad boasts six new faces and welcomes back three starters from the 2008-09 season.

“We are a completely new team, and I’m excited to see what we can do,” senior forward Erin Noonan said. “Everyone on our team can come in, make a huge contribution and keep the same energy up on the floor from the starting group.”

Absent from this year’s squad are former center Alexis Gaskin and former forward Michelle Osier, two of the team’s leading scorers last season. Head coach Charity Elliot said she feels that this year’s team will have little trouble in making up for last year’s graduated seniors.

“Certainly anytime you lose players of Michelle Osier and Alexis Gaskin’s caliber, there is going to be a process of other players having to take on new roles or expanding their existing ones,” said head coach Charity Elliot, entering her third season with the Tritons.

“Fortunately, we have great experience returning in the backcourt. [Our returners] have done a great job of leading by example, vocally communicating to our new players what our expectations are and setting the standard for our work ethic.”

According to Elliott, the absence of Osier and Gaskin presents the team with an opportunity to make positive changes.

“I really like how our team is developing so far,” Elliott said. “We’ve got three very talented freshmen and three transfers who have all done a great job of learning our system. I think we have a team of players who are willing to step up and do their part.”

Earlier this month, Elliott’s squad was put to its first test during an exhibition match against national powerhouse and premier Division-I program Stanford University. Squaring off on Nov. 8, UCSD lost in a lopsided 107-55 game to the Cardinal — who shot 58.3 percent from the floor.

UCSD, meanwhile, shot 42.4 percent in the first period but struggled offensively during the second half, hitting just nine of 43 attempts. At halftime, UCSD trailed 56-34. Stanford’s size and strength proved a challenge for the Tritons, and the Cardinal pulled away in the second half, hitting the century mark with 4:12 left to play.

Carlisle led the Tritons with 20 points, hauling in five boards and a pair of assists. Ilg was the only other player to reach double figures for the Tritons, totaling 15 points and going seven for 14 from the floor.

“Having the opportunity to play at Stanford was a tremendous experience for our team,” Elliot said. “We were able to play against one of the best teams in the country and have some small successes.”

UCSD’s second exhibition game against University of San Diego on Nov. 14 was a much closer contest, but the Tritons ultimately lost 88-69.

Starting strong on offense, UCSD took a 13-0 lead four minutes into the first half. Five different players contributed to the team’s solid start, led by Carlisle and sophomore guard Daisy Feder, who each hit three-pointers.

But the lead was short-lived: The Toreros responded with a 16-3 run that tied the game at 19-19.

USD went on to outscore the Tritons the rest of the stretch, converting 30 of 53 shots to seal the win. UCSD shot just under 38 percent from the floor.

“Both teams were able to really show us what our weaknesses are,” Elliott said about the preseason. “Now, it’s time for the [regular] season to start, and we are thrilled. We’ve got a team of hard workers, overachievers and very talented basketball players. It may take us a little while to figure out our roles, but I think we will be much deeper and well-rounded than we have been in the past.”

In the game against the Toreros, Carlisle again led the team with a game-high 21 points. Ilg was three-for-five from three-point range, and contributed 10 points.

“We have taken a lot away from our first two exhibition losses,” Ilg said. “Stanford showed us we need to work on our defensive transition and our alertness on defense. USD showed us that mental errors or lapses in effort — even for a minute — can change the momentum of the game.”

For a Triton squad with high expectations for the upcoming campaign, a challenging first two games helped players prepare for the start of the regular season.

“These games also showed us our strengths: our half-court offense, half-court defense and our speed,” Ilg said. “Both of these games were great learning experiences. By game time on Saturday, we will be a different team and ready to start this season. This team has incredible potential, and we can’t wait for it all to begin.”

Readers can contact Brianna Lee at [email protected].

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