Though the UC Irvine Women’s Basketball team walked off the courts of Anaheim last spring with a loss on their record and a premature exit from the Big West Tournament, they still hung their heads up high. The Anteaters might have lost the battle, but they most certainly won the war.
Finishing their season at 17-12, Irvine improved upon last season by nine wins, leaving their mark in UCI’s record books with the most winning season since 1994-95.
With the upcoming season upon us, everyone seems delighted about the success of last year’s team and hope for a repeat performance. But for one individual, a simple duplication of the Anteaters success will no longer satiate his hunger.
‘Last year we simply achieved moderate success, I would definitely not be satisfied with finishing fourth in the Big West again. We have improved significantly since last year, and our ultimate goal is to become the Big West Champions and earn ourselves a ticket to the NCAA tournament, said Head Coach Mark Adams. ‘Our team is no longer going to be happy with just a winning record.’
As forceful as it is, Adams’ winning attitude alone can’t springboard the team into success. Adams will be counting on his two senior leaders, guard Kristen Green and forward Christina Callaway, to instill this winning mentality. This explains the stern looks Green and Callaway project at the camera after a particularly intense practice session.
The 5-8 Green had a solid season her junior year, being named to the All-Big West honorable mention team and pacing the team with 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Raising her numbers and her level of guard play every year since joining the team as a freshman, Green hopes to continue her steady improvement in her final year as an Anteater.
‘This year, I’m really looking to raise my game after all the conditioning and ball handling work I did over the summer. Though last year I was an honorable mention, I’m aiming for that second or second team All-Big West selection this year,’ Green said.
Though ambitious about her individual achievements this season, Green has most certainly not lost sight of the team.
‘Myself and [Christina] Callaway are going to have to step up and lead this young team. Though we might go through tough times, we believe we’ll be ready once the Big West tournament rolls around,’ Green said.
Callaway has undeniably earned her position as the co-leader of this team. At 6-0, she is the Anteaters’ most dangerous post presence and enjoyed a coming out party last year by nearly doubling her scoring and rebounding numbers. The second team All-Big West forward attributed last year’s success to tapping into previously unseen confidence and mental toughness that came with being an upperclassman on the team.
‘I was more of a leader by example last year,’ Callaway said. ‘This year, I’m going to try to be more vocal with our young players and hopefully I’ll be able to provide the guidance that will help both themselves and our team mature.’
Though graduation has taxed the Anteaters of last year’s leading scorer, Wendy Gabbe, the starting lineup still looks strong. Joining Green and Callaway in the projected starting lineup will be 5-6 guard Courtney Ferguson, who looks to improve on her stellar play as a sophomore.
However, a big question remains at the point guard position, as projected starting point guard Megan Aaker injured her knee during a preseason game and is anticipated to miss the whole season. Adams, however, is not too worried about the uncertainty, dismissing it as a weakness of the team.
‘I don’t know if you would call it a weakness, but I think our team will do fine at the position, with several players split time playing the role of the point,’ Adams said.
As the season progresses, the team might need to count on the development of four incoming freshman to fill the void. UCI managed to bring in four prized recruits: forward Stepahine Duda, guard Shayna Stanley, guard Angie Ned and forward Katie Urban. Adams expressed that if any of them were to become impact players this year, consistency would be a prerequisite.
‘All four of our freshmen have shown a tremendous amount of promise at times, but the key factor that will propel them into contributing college players is definitely consistency,’ Adams said.
It is evident that the attitude for success shared by Adams and his two leaders, Green and Callaway, has already begun to trickle down to the team. For one, Adams is pleased with the way the team is set to start out.
‘Last year, our main strength was the chemistry within the team,’ Adams said. ‘Although we lost a star in Gabbe, it is obvious that everyone is on the same page, and when that’s the case, it’s a lot easier to win basketball games.’
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