By Samantha Thompson
Three weeks ago, the UC Santa Cruz women’s basketball team fell to rival Chapman University 38-48—the Slugs’ lowest scoring output of the season. Though on paper the game may have looked like the low point of the season, to the Slugs, it was actually the turning point.
“Everything happened at Chapman and all of it carried over,” senior and team co-captain Megan Gaynor said.
Head Coach Nikki Turner also saw the turn-around that came out of the team’s battle against Chapman.
“It was a great game and they’re one of our rivals, so we were feeling good and won the next two,” Turner said. “Once we did that, the momentum has just been going ever since then.”
After falling to Chapman, the Slugs notched two wins before heading to Dallas, where they racked up two more wins.
“I think our defense finally came together,” Gaynor said. “It let us take a deep breath and realize that we’re fine if we play under control.”
In Texas, the team beat Colorado College and the University of Dallas, both of which are independent Division III schools like UCSC. The wins against those schools have given the Slugs a boost in confidence, and they will meet them both again in the Independent Championship Tournament at the end of February to end the season.
Senior co-captain Rachel Ocampo expressed regret it took the team so long to mesh.
“I wish we had started earlier,” Ocampo said. “Now that the season’s over, we feel like we’ve finally figured it out.”
The Slugs sent their three senior captains off with a win Wednesday, topping Cal State East Bay 64-59 on senior night for their 10th win of the season—the team’s highest win total since rejoining the NCAA in 2004. The game was an emotional one for Gaynor.
“I for one will definitely be bawling at the end of that game,” Gaynor said before the win. “I don’t know what I’m going do with my life without basketball.”
The team waits in anticipation to see what seed they will be placed in for the year-ending tournament. The team probably will not be able to advance to the NCAA tournament, but senior Perbey Pandac is excited just to end the season on a high note.
“I’m just looking forward to putting it all out there for the last time,” senior Perbey Pandac said.
The Slugs are looking to go into their last few games with the same team chemistry they found after playing Chapman.
“We actually just feel really good about the way we’re playing,” Coach Turner said. “And we know the little things here and there that we need to fix.”
Turner continued, “There’s nothing more we can really do right now but just stay rested and stay focused. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Turner believes that her team can come up with a few more wins in the last games of season.
“So that’s our goal,” Turner said. “One game at a time.”