Senior Slugs Say Farewell

Women’s basketball wins its senior night

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Sophomore Jenna Sparks goes for a layup. “The seniors really brought the energy. I think the excitement was palpable,” Sparks said about the game. Photo by Jasper Lyons
Sophomore Jenna Sparks goes for a layup. “The seniors really brought the energy. I think the excitement was palpable,” Sparks said about the game. Photo by Jasper Lyons

With 12 seconds to go in the third quarter, senior Tyler Stewart banked a 3-pointer from the left wing and the crowd of over 300 erupted with cheers. It was her 100th 3-pointer — possibly the final one of her career.

Precise ball movement and shooting by the UC Santa Cruz women’s basketball team led to a 92-57 win over Bethesda University on Friday night. The four graduating seniors scored a combined 54 points as the team played some of the best basketball of its season.

“There were so many people there supporting us and it was senior night, so obviously it was a big night for all of us,” said senior guard Jasmin Dimson. “As a team, we played really well together that night, and I don’t think it could have gone any better than it honestly did.”

The crowd at Kaiser Permanente Arena hung on every moment as the teams executed shot after shot. The seniors were honored with speeches highlighting their achievements on the court and about what they meant to the team, reflecting on their collective growth.

Senior Michelle Poole sinks a free throw in the fourth quarter. She said this is the closest she has been with her team. Photo by Jasper Lyons
Senior Michelle Poole sinks a free throw in the fourth quarter. She said this is the closest she has been with her team. Photo by Jasper Lyons

“We channeled all the energy from the crowd and from the fans, and the other [NCAA] teams that had come to watch us and let it fuel our energy into the game,” said sophomore guard Sonya Ivanovic. “We completely played as a team, our passing was incredible. All the chemistry on the court was really great.”

This was the team’s third and most decisive win against Bethesda this season. Less than five minutes into the game, senior Michelle Poole made a layup that put them up 13-3. The Slugs kept at least a 10-point lead throughout the game, leading by 40 at one point. They finished their season 14-10 overall.

With a strong end to its regular season after facing opponents such as DI Santa Clara University, the team will find out on Feb. 27 if its performance gets them to the NCAA championship. This game marked Coach Todd Kent’s 100th win after his eight season at UCSC.

“It’s been a great season. In terms of the schedule, it’s been by far the most difficult schedule we’ve played since I’ve been at [UCSC],” Kent said. “They’ve done a great job of going through the process and putting themselves in positions to be in most of the games.”

The team focuses on including all the players regardless of playing time or year, creating a support system that aids its play. The culture of positivity is lead by the seniors as they shared their experiences.

“[The seniors] know what other players are going through, so it’s a cool way to connect with the underclassmen or connect with the other girls on the team,” senior Tyler Stewart said.

Creating a tight knit team is a result of the leadership’s effort as well as the coaching staff’s skill and attitude. Todd Kent and the assistant coaches’ expertise have driven the women to winning seasons for the past five years and to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program’s history last year.

“[Our coaches] just pour their heart and soul into the program. It’s a really good support system, they really care about each of us individually as daughters basically,” Stewart said.

As the team waits to hear about if it qualified for NCAA championships, the coaches and players go to practice as usual, but that hasn’t stopped the players, both old and new from looking toward next year.

As the seniors look back on their college athletic careers, the feeling is bittersweet — embracing the countless memories but preparing to say goodbye to the family they cultivated on the court.

Senior Jasmin Dimson shoots a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. She scored 12 points in her last regular season game. Photo by Jasper Lyons
Senior Jasmin Dimson shoots a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. She scored 12 points in her last regular season game. Photo by Jasper Lyons

“My class has really worked to set this standard of not just being a team, but being a family and always having each other’s backs,” senior Jasmin Dimson said. “You can tell that this culture that we’re trying to create is definitely going been instilled in the lowerclassmen, and they’re going to continue building that culture.”