Photo Courtesy of UC Irvine Athletics
By Hunter Hermanson
Women’s Basketball began their season with a record-setting 7-0 start. Since then the team has had their fair share of battles and ended their season with a loss to top seeded UC Davis in the semifinal round of Big West Tournament. The ‘Eaters beat No.8 seed, UCSB 53-46 to start the tournament, then took on the No. 4 seeded CSUN in a 59-57 victory that sent them to play at the Honda Center for the first time in five years. Additionally, the win over the Matadors pushed the ‘Eaters to a 20-10 record marking the first time the ‘Eaters have had a 20 win season since 1984.
The Victory over the CSUN Matadors came after a hard fought game where the No. 5 seeded ‘Eaters were able to build an 11 point lead late in the game. After leading 55-44 during the midway point of the final quarter, the ‘Eaters had a lapse in defense that allowed CSUN to make a strong run, eventually tying the game at 55-55 with just over a minute left to play. Junior Lauren Saiki, who had four three-pointers, was able to regain the lead, this time stepping inside the arc to float one in. That lead was short lived as the Matadors responded with a layup with only 17 seconds to play. On the final their possession of the game, the ‘Eaters found sophomore Tahlia Garza for the wide-open layup and the lead with only two seconds left on the clock. The Matadors managed to fire off a three point attempt to take the lead, but were unable to convert. Sophomore Jordan Sanders led the team with 18 points and Senior Andee Ritter brought her record number of steals to 195.
After their strong-nerved Victory over the Matadors, the ‘Eaters faced very stiff competition in UC Davis. UCI managed to strike first when Garza started the game with a layup, but quickly fell behind thanks to Davis’s strong shooting. Sanders lead the charge for the ‘Eaters with 22 points of her own, but the other ‘Eaters did not follow suit. No other UCI player was able to break the double digit mark in points. The ‘Eaters shot only 25 percent from the field compared to Davis, who managed a respectable 53.6 percent. Davis seemed to have all the answers, besting the ‘Eaters in most categories and giving the ‘Eaters a final record of 20-11. Despite the loss, the ‘Eaters have a lot to celebrate this season. Several records and firsts came this year. Many of the ‘Eaters will be returning next year, keeping the team’s core intact. All but two of the ‘Eaters, seniors Sabrina Engelstad and Andee Ritter, will be returning. If the season is indicative of anything it seems that next year UCI women’s basketball fans have a lot to look forward to.