The UC Irvine women’s basketball team fell to Cal Poly Pomona 78-73 in overtime on Saturday at Bren Events Center in an exhibition match.
Even though they were handed a defeat, the Anteaters have reasons to stay optimistic. The Anteaters are under the guidance of first-year Head Coach Molly Goodenbour, who comes from Chico State. At Chico State, Goodenbour compiled an impressive 52-11 record. In the 2007-08 season, she won the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Coach of the Year award after leading the Wildcats to a 28-6 record.
Goodenbour’s presence seems to have made an immediate impact as the Anteaters, who finished eight in the Big West last season, battled with a solid Cal Poly team that gave Goodenbour’s Wildcats a push in Division II last year. Cal Poly finished second to Chico State last year in their conference.
On Saturday afternoon, the Lady ‘Eaters came to play. They kept the game close until Cal Poly’s Megan Ford took matters into her own hands as she scored six of Cal Poly’s 13 overtime points and lead them to victory.
The Anteaters held the lead for much of the first half until Cal Poly took the 62-61 lead with 1:06 left in regulation on a Unique Anderson jumper. With the score at 65-61 in Pomona’s favor with 29 seconds left, UCI’s Rebecca Maessen cut the lead to two on a layup with 20 seconds left. After two missed Cal Poly free throws, Maessen recorded two clutch free throws with 11 seconds left to tie the game. Neither team would be able to take the win in regulation, as the Broncos persevered in overtime.
Despite Ford’s heroic attempts in overtime, Maessen emerged as a top performer with 23 points and six assists. Maessen was one of the bright surprises from last season. She came on late in the season and established herself as a starter for the struggling squad. Though she was 3-10 from three-point range on Saturday, she should be a sharp shooter for the Anteaters as she ranked third in the Big West last season in three-point shooting percentage with .372.
Senior Kirian Ishizaki scored 12 points for UCI. Ishizaki is another long-range threat for the Anteaters as she ranks 16th all-time at UCI in three-pointers made. She also has the ability to distribute the ball and she led the team in assists last season.
Another veteran for UCI is senior Kelly Cochran. She was an All Big West Honorable Mention last season. She is the Big West’s leading returner in double-doubles with nine last season.
Making up for Stephanie Duda’s rebounding is sophomore Kim Barnes. She snagged 12 rebounds on Saturday to go along with her seven points. The 6-foot-4-inch center and member of the under 21 New Zealand national team should see more time in the paint this season.
Kiara Belen should be the freshman face we will see a lot this season. In 22 minutes of action, Belen recorded 11 points on 4-7 shooting. Last year at Bishop Gorman High School in Nevada, Belen was selected second team all-state.
Coach Goodenbour inherits and brings in a talented squad that does not want to find itself finishing near the bottom of the Big West. If her resume indicates anything, it is that she knows how to win.
Saturday was a good test against one of the most successful Division II basketball teams, but the real test comes now.
The Anteaters begin their season on Nov. 14 at New Mexico State, and then host Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 25 for their home opener.