Breanna Stewart, Sydnee Fipps

UCD's Sydnee Fipps, right, is pressured by Connecticut's Breanna Stewart during a game last season. The national-champion Huskies, who beat the Aggies 97-37 in that contest, will be at The Pavilion on Nov. 14. AP photo


Hard hoops schedule features defending national champs at UCD

By From page B1 | August 20, 2014

Attention, Aggie Nation:

Don’t be left out of this one …

On Friday, Nov. 14, the UC Davis women’s basketball team tips off the regular season with two-time defending champion Connecticut at The Pavilion.

No one knows how far the Aggies have come since last December’s 97-37 ambush by the Huskies in Hartford, Conn., but one thing now is certain — that UConn edition, which finished 40-0, is regarded by many as the sport’s all-time best team.

Another fast fact: In announcing the 2014-15 schedule earlier this week, UCD coach Jennifer Gross notes three other NCAA Tournament participants on the docket — Stanford, Arizona State and Cal State Northridge.

“This is a schedule that is really exciting for us because we get to challenge ourselves against the nation’s best,” explains Gross. “Obviously, UConn the past couple of years has really dominated. Every year we want to put some teams on our schedule that will be a measuring stick for us — and this year we definitely have that.”

Gross believes this could be the most difficult schedule in program history.

After opening with the Huskies (a nine-time national champ), the Aggies travel to Sacramento State (Nov. 18) before playing four straight at home against St. Mary’s, Utah Valley, Pacific and San Francisco.

UCD will participate in the Air Force Tournament Dec. 5-6, but doesn’t know who its opponents will be (probably the host Falcons and Santa Clara).

Then, the Aggiesclose out 2014 with The Gauntlet — road games at San Jose State (Dec. 10), Arizona State (Dec. 13) and Stanford (Dec. 22).

One can count on one hand the number of programs that have scheduled two of the nation’s Final Four teams from last March. UConn beat Stanford to advance and win the title against Notre Dame (which had topped Maryland).

“Off the record. Is that total stupidity?” Gross says with a smile when talking about her preconference slate.

To wit, the Aggies’ confirmed 2014-15 foes outside of the Big West schedule had a 210-116 record (.647) last season.

“Last year we went down to Stanford and played them under 20 points … and that tells us we’re really making progress,” Gross adds. “This year’s team is an exciting group, a hungry group. We want to challenge ourselves against the best.

“We’re definitely going to have an opportunity to do that.”

League play begins at Big West champ Northridge on Jan. 8, then it’s off to Long Beach State on Jan. 10. UCD returns home for conference games with UC Riverside (Jan. 15), Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 17) and Hawaii (Jan. 22).

Gross again sees parity in the Big West, but believes Northridge has to be the favorite, since it won everything a year ago.

“They return everybody. They’re going to be really good,” says the longtime Aggie player and coach. “Long Beach has a majority of their roster returning, but I think we’re right there, too.

“We lost one senior (Idit Oryon). We have a majority of our scoring returning and we add a really exciting freshman class to those very focused and determined veterans.”

Back for her senior season will be forward Sydney Fipps, whose 17.6 points-per-game average was the league’s second-best 2013-14 total.

Fipps, with 1,216 career points, is the Aggies’ seventh all-time leading scorer.

She needs 201 points to jump five places in those standings. Should the two-time All-Big West first-teamer recreate her 512-point junior season, the Mariposa product will pass Carol Rische (1,711) as the program’s most prolific scorer.

In all, 10 Aggies return from the up-and-down 15-16 season. A 9-7 league mark gave the team hope going into the year-end Big West tourney, but injuries to Fipps and emerging sophomore center Aly Doherty blew out any NCAA-berth candles.

Fipps’ leg injury was not severe, but Doherty (knee) has come back from surgery and is expected to be ready sometime before the first of the calendar year.

“She’s doing phenomenal,” Gross said of Big West second-team choice Doherty (13.1 ppg and 171 rebounds). “I have been so impressed with her work ethic and commitment to her improvement. It’s too early to tell when she’s going to be back. Work-ethicwise, I’ve never seen anybody work harder. The best part? Once she’s back on the court and healthy, she’ll bring that same kind of determination to our games.”

Notes: Ready to get tickets? The 15-game home schedule has ticket packages that begin as low at $70. Tickets are available online at www.ucdavisaggies.com or by calling the ticket office at 530-752-AGS1. … Three women’s-men’s doubleheaders are slated: Nov. 26 against Utah Valley (men play Utah State); Nov. 29 with Pacific (Utah Valley for the men); and Jan. 3 against Menlo College (men meet Cal Maritime).

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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