As the calendar advances closer and closer to the November opening of the UC Davis women’s basketball campaign, the buzz around campus is that this is going to be one heckuva season for the fans.
While it’s too early to talk Big West predictions or who will emerge as leaders, Aggie head coach Jen Gross’ enthusiasm tipped her team’s hand …
“I think, if fans come out and give us a chance, they’ll find they will really have a good time watching this group,” Gross told The Enterprise after another spirited practice at The Pavilion on Wednesday. “I think we’ll play a really exciting style of basketball.
“We’re going to get out and run, we have mobile posts who can score, we have guards who can knock down the three and we’re going to be pushing pace. We’re going to put some points on the board.”
Carrying only 11 players — including only one senior — the Aggies will welcome back junior guard Brianna Salvatore, who sat out last year with an injury. Gross and Company get Iowa State transfer Kelsey Harris in uniform and greet two freshmen in guards Taylor McGuire (Buena High of Ventura) and Brianne Yasukochi (La Jolla Country Day).
Mix in all-Big West forward Sydnee Fipps, a healthy Lauren Beyer and swingman senior Idit Oryon, and the picture begins to develop.
On this day, the conversation wasn’t about being specific regarding the expected-to-be-scrappy squad.
Coming off a 12-18 season in which the Aggies felt their way through a 7-11 conference slate, Gross expects a marked improvement in 2013-14.
But there’s time to talk about that before the season starts with a Nov. 1 home scrimmage with Humboldt State.
Today, the focus was on the schedule — the home-and-away series with national champion Connecticut — and the rest of the pre-Big West fireworks.
First, how did the Huskies and Aggies come to hook up?
“It turns out that Chris Dailey (longtime UConn associate head coach) had a niece who attended Davis,” says Gross, who met Dailey during a recruiting trip. “I met Geno (Auriemma) on the road, too, and we talked about them potentially coming back to Davis when they played Stanford next year.
“I knew Geno was a big wine connoisseur. When I told him we were 45 minutes from Napa, it sealed the deal.”
UCD will visit Storrs, Conn., on Dec. 5. Two days later, the locals will be at Hofstra.
The Aggies also find themselves on the road with another 2013 NCAA tournament No. 1 seed when they visits Stanford on Nov. 17.
But UCD fans don’t have to wait a year for big-time home entertainment…
Southern Cal opens the regular season at The Pavilion on Nov. 8 and San Jose State will be in town on Nov. 26. Sacramento State will continue the rivalry when it comes calling Dec. 28.
The Aggies can get a leg up on the rest of the Big West when they opens league play at home with Cal State Northridge (Jan. 9) and Long Beach State (Jan. 9).
“We talked about holding ourselves accountable and reporting in shape,” Gross says. “And we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year … partly because we were so young.
“We’ve always been known for our defense, but we’re going to mix up some defenses to keep our opponents guessing. We’re going to be tough and gritty. We’re going to come out and compete defensively every night.”
The conversation returned to the UConn and Stanford games and their respective coaching staffs…
“We’ve developed a relationship with (the Huskies’) coaching staff,” Gross continued. “But what’s the really great thing about some of these coaches that have had tremendous success and are sort of icons in women’s basketball is, most importantly, they’re about promoting women’s basketball.
“For UConn to come into our place next year, where we are going to pack the house and sell the place out and create such a buzz in the Northern California community, it’s good for women’s basketball.”
Notes: Gross had words of praise for Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. UCD hosted the Cardinal last year. “They’re friends of our program. It’s nice not only to play these teams on the road, but to give our fans a chance to see some of the top talent in the country — and to give our players the opportunity to compete against it. …Player Brianne Yasukochi is the sister of Aggie director of women’s basketball operations Britnee Yasukochi. …Gross’ staff remains intact: assistant (and husband of the coach) Joe Teramoto returns, as do assistants Matt Klemin and Des Abeyta. Entering her 27th year on the Aggie bench is administrative assistant Therese Cardinet. A 1982 graduate of UC Davis, Cardinet was not only a star guard for the Aggies (once leading her team to a 23-8 mark), she was also a member of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s first girls championship team from Davis High. Tickets start at $5 with season tickets up to $60. Visit www.ucdavisaggies.com and click on “tickets” for more information.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org