Following an impressive season, the Bulldogs Women’s Basketball team earned a place in the NCAA III Tournament after winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Championship Tournament.
A star of the championship game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, U of R sophomore Alyssa Downs was responsible for scoring 22 of the team’s 62 total points, and this season leads the team in points scored per game, with an average of 14.5.
“I honestly don’t keep track of how many points I have during a game,” Downs said. “I try to stay focused on situations as they develop as well as encouraging my teammates. Winning is important, but I feel that working together and developing together is more important. I wanted to make sure that my teammates knew how confident I was in each and every one of them and that I did as much as I could to help them. I think what helped us win in the SCIAC postseason tournament championship game was how we played like one unit during the game. There wasn’t a single person who “carried” us the entire game, it was all of us as one unit.”
Commenting further on the equally impressive performances of her teammates, she adds:
“When I started cooling off offensively in the fourth quarter, Cassie Lacey or Alyssa Lee stepped in and continued the offensive momentum. Hannah Jerrier or Kellis Dack would get important defensive stops and be huge on the glass. Our bench stepped up and kept the pressure on CMS as well. At the end of the game, it didn’t matter to me how much I scored. I was so excited that we won together.”
After some complications last season, Downs says this year the team is stronger and more connected than ever.
“This season has definitely been one of my favorite basketball seasons that I’ve ever been a part of,” Downs said. “Our team this year gets along really well and we truly have a great time being around each other and playing basketball. We all understand what it means to play with and for each other and it has shown in our success this season … all of us are on the same page and we all understand what it takes to be a successful cohesive team.”
From what Alyssa says, it’s clear the team this year has great chemistry. When asked what her favorite thing about playing on the team is, she cites this as one of the main aspects:
“My favorite thing about playing for the Bulldogs is being able to play basketball with some of my closest friends. We have such a long season and we spend countless hours in the gym together making us all very close. Even when we aren’t playing basketball, we are all hanging out throughout the day at some point, whether it is in the Commons, or the library. I think this is what has made playing basketball this season so much better because the team has so much chemistry on and off the court. We push, shove, and play our hardest against each other in practice to the point of getting mad at each other, but once we step off the court we are all best friends. It makes communicating and playing as a team so much easier when you have people around you who strive for the same goals as you.”
Following their success in the SCIAC championships, the team has since traveled to Wisconsin for the D-III NCAA tournament. In the first round, the Bulldogs were paired up against the No. 8 ranked D-III team in the nation, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In an impressive victory the Bulldogs ended up defeating them, with a final score of 70-62. Adding to the weight of the win, this was the first time the Redlands women’s basketball team made it past the first round of an NCAA tournament.
Speaking on the strategies used in the game, Downs said that “It was a really good defensive battle on both sides throughout the game. Whitewater mainly worked around their two strong posts, but we were able to play great defense and hold the posts to minimal points.”
The following day, the Bulldogs faced off against the No. 23 ranking team from Trine University in the second round of the tournament. Although they played valiantly, the Bulldogs were defeated 69-49.
Though disappointed, Downs adamantly expressed her pride for the effort the team put in, both in the tournament and throughout their season as a whole.
“We were all upset that we lost, but proud of ourselves that we were able to make the second round of the tournament,” Downs said. “Looking back on our experience at the tournament, it was really rewarding to see how far we’ve come as a team since the first day of practice. Being able to make the NCAA tournament is something that I believe we can make every year if we continue to work hard like we did this past year and continue to play as one unit.”
With their success this season, there’s no telling how far the Bulldogs will go in the future. It’s clear though that with a team as tight-knit and dedicated as this one, good things are in store.
“I am extremely proud of everything that the team and I were able to accomplish,” Downs said. “We all genuinely enjoyed practicing and playing with each other every time we stepped on the court. I cannot wait to see what our team accomplishes in the upcoming years!”
[hr gap=””]Photograph by Rachel Roche for Go Redlands.