UCD women feed off energy of rising stars

By From page B1 | November 20, 2012

UCD's Blair Shinoda — one of just two seniors on the 2012-13 roster — dribbles, while surveying the floor during an exhibition game earlier this month. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

UCD's Blair Shinoda — one of just two seniors on the 2012-13 roster — dribbles, while surveying the floor during an exhibition game earlier this month. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise file photo

No matter how much turkey they eat on Thanksgiving Day, the UC Davis women’s basketball squad will still have its appetite. That’s because it has an unsatisfied hunger to improve.

The Aggies hope to get their fill in Texas, where they are headed for the two-day Houston Baptist Husky Classic. The tournament kicks off Friday, with UCD (0-2) facing Navy (1-2), followed by a Saturday matchup with Houston Baptist (1-3).

The event is a chance for the Aggies to recover from a tough start to their 2012-13 campaign. UCD lost its season opener, 83-68, at home against Pepperdine on Nov. 9, then fell, 72-65, in the following bout at San Francisco (Nov. 14).

Aggie head coach Jennifer Gross said that even in the losses, there were indicators of how the local women can achieve betterment and remain strong.

“We’ve seen some positive things from the first games, and a lot of things that we need to improve as well,” said Gross, who is in her second year at the helm.

The breakout performance of UCD sophomore Sydnee Fipps undoubtedly was the highlight of the first two encounters.

Fipps scored 19 points, a personal best, against Pepperdine, then set a new career high less than a week later by hitting for 26 points at USF.

That performance marked the highest scoring output for an Aggie since Jessica Campbell scored 29 points at the same venue on Dec. 20, 2007.

Fipps has proven herself capable of scoring in a variety of ways; shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 8-of-11 from the free throw line in her last showing. She also went 2-for-4 from 3-point range.

“She’s really a talented scorer,” Gross said. “Right now, while some of the other players are sort of still getting their feet wet, she has been asked to take on the role of being extra assertive and looking for opportunities.

“I do think that if we’re going to be as good as we can be, we’re going to have to be a little bit more balanced. We have the players to do that, but it’s just a matter of them getting comfortable and stepping up at game time.”

With five freshman additions to the 2012-13 UCD roster, a handful of returners who have changed roles and players recovering from preseason injuries, the Aggies foresaw a period of growing pains.

A pair of UCD freshmen, Celia Marfone and Molly Greubel, have hinted at the untapped potential of the young squad. Greubel recorded 16 points, while Marfone finished with three steals, as the two made their collegiate debuts against Pepperdine.

The rest of the first-year Aggies have a little over a month to get used to the college game before Big West conference play begins in January. UCD’s veterans, however, believe progress is happening quickly.

“We’re improving day by day,” said Blair Shinoda, one of the two Aggie seniors, along with Cortney French, who are acting as team captains. “We’ve been training our fundamentals — offense and defense — to get to where we need to be.

“Everyone has been working really hard, and I think this upcoming tournament is going to be another good test for us.”

For the Aggies to compete in an upcoming series of tough home outings — against Stanford (Nov. 30), St. Mary’s (Dec. 6) and Santa Clara (Dec. 16) — they need to exit this weekend’s tournament reinvigorated.

“It’s going to be important for us,” Gross said. “The matchups are good. We’re playing two quality teams that will challenge us in different ways. We get to try out different lineups and combinations, so I’m excited.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.

Brett Johnson

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