I was a little disappointed Thursday night…
Only 483 people showed up for the UC Davis women’s basketball game.
Fortunately, the Aggie Band-uh occasionally made it seem like a sellout, but on this night — in a close loss to Cal State Northridge — our young women could’ve used every hoarse voice available.
Usually, our fans get it. And their enthusiasm might be the very element that puts their Aggies over the top in 2014.
More so than Long Beach State backers. More so than the fair-weather Mustang followers, Aggie Nation stands tall among members of the Big West.
In drawing almost 1,000 fans a night, the Aggies are the conference’s best-supported women’s team.
“It’s such an advantage to have our fans behind us,” says UCD coach Jennifer Gross.
“As a player, and now a coach, I know first-hand how special that atmosphere can be. To have that Sixth Man — where the crowd is up and giving us an advantage — is special.”
In her storied career at what was once called the Rec Hall, Gross led her 1997 UCD team to a 29-3 mark and a spot in that spring’s Division II Elite Eight.
During her four years on the court, Gross set school marks for assists, steal and treys.
Her 448 assists remain an Aggie standard.
She remembers the Aggie Pack at full strength, the big crowds of many doubleheaders with the men’s team playing nightcaps. She says the atmosphere was “electric and helped my game.”
Gross says the same goes for her current charges.
“We need to make The Pavilion a place where fans just dread coming into,” Gross explains. “We want (the opponents) to know it’s going to be a place … that’s rowdy, loud and they’re going to face a competitive team.”
The UCD preseason was brutal.
No. 1 Connecticut and No. 4 Stanford were on the agenda, as were mid-major-ranked St. Mary’s and rascally Sacramento State.
When Celia Marfone went down with a leg injury, the locals were forced to refocus their personnel scheme.
After losing Cal State Northridge, 56-52, it appears the Aggies need their faithful crowd back — the challenges of Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii will be daunting.
“You can throw out our preseason record,” the coach says.
If you’ve seen your Aggies play, it’s a safe bet you’ve been more than once. Syndee Fipps, Brianna Salvatore, Kelsey Harris, Molly Greubel, Alyson Doherty … they’re habit-forming.
If you haven’t been out to The Pavilion, what are you waiting for?
“This is a team that plays hard,” Gross points out. “They compete. They care. We get after it and we have a lot of exciting players.”
Gross loves the balance of her team’s attack. If you like strong moves inside, these women are your cup of tea.
Like watching it fly from the parking lot? These Aggies lead all Big West teams in treys and there are rafters-full to come.
“When we’re at full strength, we have depth at every position,” Gross says.
“Fans are going to not only see that Sydnee Fipps is getting it done with points night after night, but she’s got a lot of players around her that are getting it done, too.”
Over the past few years, UCD has outdistanced its Big West sisterhood in attendance.
When the Paige Mintun-led Ags went to the Big Dance, Cal Poly had a crucial outing in which it beat UCSB before 2,433 fans to get the top Big West tourney seed.
However, three days later in a first-round game of the league tournament, Cal Poly drew only 244! What kind of fans are those?
Averaging 950 fans a night this season, UCD is queen of the Big West Ball. Long Beach State, UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge are showing they’re lucky to get 520 in the door.
On Titan T-shirt Giveaway Night, Fullerton drew 157 against Seattle. Sheesh.
More than 2,600 people paid to see Stanford at The Pavilion last year, and games against Cal State Fullerton (2,003) and Pacific (2,477) were two of the league’s top five figures.
UC Davis’ all-time attendance mark for the women — 4.675 on Jan. 23, 1999 — came against Chico State back in the Division II days.
The often-painted, sometimes loony Aggie Pack, the Aggie Band-uh, the on-the-spot announcing of Bob Kerr, the Pep and Dance squads and those relentless women of UCD basketball … what a cool night of entertainment for under $10.
There are plenty of games left. If you haven’t seen the show, come see what you’re missing at The Pavilion.
“Fans will see a high-energy, competitive group whose hearts are on the line,” Gross promises. “They want it. They want it bad.”
While I Have You Here: Ever notice that guard Salvatore and post Doherty frequently have a uniform pant leg rolled up during action?
I was pretty sure it was a secret message. Depending upon what which leg was crunched, there was a play called — and my fuzzy math says between two pant legs you could signal up to 12 plays.
I thought I was being a brilliant observer until my wife asked, “What’s up with Salvatore’s uniform?”
I was sent to find the answer.
Fipps gave me insight.
“It’s not a signal or anything like that,” she told me. “They don’t like their pant legs that long. It bothers Brianna and Aly when they’re tickling their knees.”
Fipps assured me there was nothing more.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.