Friday, March 6, 2015

Young Aggie women learned from challenges

From page B1 | March 24, 2013 |

In a way, the UC Davis women’s basketball team’s 2012-13 season was a complete success. That’s because coach Jennifer Gross’ main goal for the year was to have her young squad get better by the end of the campaign — and the Aggies did just that.

“If there’s any one word that we used from the season’s beginning, it was improvement,” Gross said. “It’s what we were focused on, and it’s something we achieved. We worked hard each day, individually and as a team, to improve.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see that. Basketball is a sport measured solely by the outcome of games. However, if you look at us from start to finish — we found success.”

The Aggies, who finished with a 12-18 overall record, fell 61-40 to fifth-seeded Cal State Northridge in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament on March 12. Cal Poly went on the win the title.

Gross was correct in that UCD had some demonstrable signs of improvement in 2012-13, such as following a five-game losing streak in middle of the Big West slate by never losing more than two games in a row thereafter.

But the road was rough for the UCD squad, which had to cope with the graduation of five senior starters. Gross hoped that the supervision of seniors Cortney French and Blair Shinoda — and the energy of a young roster — would be enough to lead them to conference glory.

“Sure, we would’ve liked to have that storybook ending, but this was an important year for learning,” Gross said. “We had so many new and young players. For a lot of them, this was their first experience at this level.”

The Aggies now bid farewell to their veteran duo. After sinking more than 60 treys this season, French’s expertise beyond the arc will certainly be missed — as will the utility of Shinoda, who recorded more than 60 steals.

However, UCD will retain a majority of its roster, given that five out of its 10 active players were freshmen. Highlighting the strength of the underclassmen in 2012-13 were Alyson Doherty and Molly Greubel, both Big West All-Freshman team honorees.

“All of next year’s returners will have played, and that’s huge,” Gross said. “There’s not a lot of teams that can say everyone on the roster got a lot of play time. We were really focused on everyone’s development.

“From the perspective of the players, I know their expectations have changed. They know the feeling of being in the locker room after a loss, and they’ll do everything in their power to ensure we’re not there again.”

A lot of interest will be on the offseason development of sophomore standout Sydnee Fipps, who was named to the All-Big West first team after her impressive season. She scored in double digits in each of the final 10 games, and amassed at least 22 points seven times.

“She’s talked to the coaching staff already about how she’s going to work just as hard for next year,” Gross said of Fipps, who averaged 17.1 points per game to lead the Aggies. “It’s going to be exciting to see how she can continue to make strides.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett



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