After a tough defeat at the hands of No. 1 Stanford, the UC Davis women’s basketball team needs a unified effort to bounce back in the final two games of this early-season homestand, beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. against St. Mary’s.
Blair Shinoda knows this well. In fact, it’s part of the philosophy to which she has committed herself.
“As Aggies, we just do the job that we need to do. The team is always the top priority,” said the senior point guard.
UCD head coach Jennifer Gross praised the team-mindedness of Shinoda, who is captaining the 2012-13 Aggies (2-3) alongside senior Courtney French.
“I’m blessed with two of the most amazing captains I could ask for,” said Gross, who is in her second year at the helm. “If you watch them on the floor, Courtney is probably a little more vocal, but Blair really keeps the team steady.
“A lot of people asked me, ‘Is Blair going to be one of your main scorers?’ It’s funny, because a lot of what she does doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”
Shinoda does, however, tie Aggie sophomore Sydnee Fipps for the No. 3 spot in the Big West for steals per game as they are averaging 2.6 apiece. In addition, Shinoda has 25 points and 14 assists so far this season.
And she has done at least as much to support her UCD teammates off the court. Shinoda even had a hand in recruiting freshman Molly Greubel, a family friend who also attended Foothill High in Santa Ana.
“It has been really fun to have her on the team,” Shinoda said. “When she first visited, and met all the girls, I think she saw what we’ve all seen in this program; the Aggie pride and our great community here in Davis.”
This year, Greubel has played witness to Shinoda’s transition back to point guard, a position she played throughout high school. Shinoda has switched from the more offensive role that she flourished in last season, averaging 7.5 points per game.
“I’ve gotten the chance to see the floor from a different perspective,” Shinoda said. “It has been great to see the new girls pick up the offense and run it. It’s going to be exciting to see where we’ll be in March.”
With the season-ending Big West Tournament still 24 contests away, the local women still have room to improve.
UCD’s last task was a tall one: facing the unrelenting offense of Stanford, which went home with an 87-38 victory, retaining its undefeated record at 8-0.
“They came into the game as the No. 1 ranked team for a reason — they had weapons at every spot,” Gross said. “Playing against the best makes you focus on all of the little things even more.
“As long as we look at that film and see progress from the week before, we know we’re on the right track. Eventually, this team is going to gel, and we’re going to be really good.”
After a week of reloading, the Aggies return to The Pavilion fully equipped for their battle against the Gaels (5-2).
Though UCD holds a 6-4 home advantage in the all-time series against St. Mary’s, shutting down a team in the midst of a five-game road swing will not be easy.
“(The Gaels are) having a great season, so this will be a good test for us,” Gross said. “With a young group, these games are important in measuring how much progress we’re making.”
Notes: The Aggie program is teaming with Toys for Tots to organize a holiday toy drive for tonight’s game. Fans who donate an unwrapped new toy upon arrival at The Pavilion will have the opportunity to purchase general admission seats for the 7 p.m. contest for just $5. Only one toy needs to be donated to receive reduced admission, however, those in attendance are invited to donate as many items as they want for this worthy cause.
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052.