Nov 05, 2018
After two straight years making the NCAA Tournament, UC Santa Cruz's women's team slipped a bit last year and finished with just nine wins.
UC Santa Cruz opens the season on Friday against Oregon Tech looking to find their way back to the postseason. The Banana Slugs lost top defender Kim Tom to graduation and shooting guard Katie Young took a prestigious internship and couldn't return.
Coming in is an amazing freshman class that includes four all-state players that will not just fill the gaps left by the graduated, but push the returners for playing time.
"It is always a challenge to replace great players, especially two dynamic scorers and defenders like Kimmy and Katie," said Todd Kent, the winningest head coach in school history. "With that said, Sarah (Assistant Coach Sarah Anderson) did a great job going out and finding highly competitive freshman who work hard and want to win. As we develop our team culture and identity, we have had our returners come in ready to make contributions immediately along with our incoming freshman who are learning growing quickly and working hard.
"It will be a total team effort to fill the void lost to those two great players and it will be a lot of fun watching which players go out and earn those opportunities."
Three of the eight newcomers were named Valedictorian and three others graduated with over a 4.0 GPA.
"Our incoming freshman class is a very talented and hard working group. They each bring a unique set of skills that makes fighting for playing time very competitive. With the addition of Kaylee Murphy, Ashley Kowack and Amanda Inserra out on the wings, we are able to create matchup problems for our opponents as each is very versatile in where we can play them."
The Slugs return key leadership with four seniors. Guard Brianne Ulloa, who provided key minutes off the bench after taking time off from basketball. Forward Katherine Mauldin provided extra help on the boards. Post players Katilin Stephenson and Jenna Sparks were front court starters that were the team's top two rebounders and shot blockers.
Coach Kent continued "the newcomers have also pushed returners Katilin, Suhansi Perera and Alaina Alvarez, which will makes everything we do in practice more competitive and has made us better immediately."
CJ Catina, the top returning scorer and point guard, will have help at both the shooting and point guard positions she played interchangeably last season.
"Bringing in Aubrey Wagner and Maddie Brauer helps at the point guard position, as we can move CJ to more of a scorer's role this season," Kent says. "Savannah Henson and Emily Mitchell will provide some versatility as they can each play the PG position and also take on the role of a shooting guard and Savannah Powell is a tremendous defender who can also shoot the three. All in all this class has brought depth and an eagerness to learn and get better. Combined with our talented returners this will be a fun year to watch us grow and see how great we can become."
The ambitious schedule includes fourteen home games. Nine of them will be Division III opponents from coast to coast, with four homestands out of the five weekends in December.
"Scheduling is arguably the most challenging aspect of my job," admitted Kent. "It takes a lot of hard work and patience filling our 25 game schedule each year. Luckily for me, we live in an amazingly beautiful area and when I send out emails each year to every D3 team in the country, we often get a lot of interest from teams to travel out to the West Coast and play.
"This season I was able to get a lot of interest and we don't want to say no to anyone willing to travel. This is why you see so many games in a small amount of time. We need the D3 competition and we find a way to fit teams in if they want to come out and compete."