Looking to rebound from last Thursday’s exhibition loss to Monterey Bay, the UCSB women’s basketball team will open up regular season play this weekend when it travels to Malibu and Los Angeles to face Pepperdine and # 15 UCLA.
“While it was a disappointing night for us, it was a good kind of wakeup call,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Luckily that game didn’t count for anything except our pride a little bit, and a little wakeup call to say we need to be better every single day in practice, and be ready to go when it comes to Friday night.”
The Gauchos will try to rebound against two very tough opponents in Pepperdine and UCLA. Last season, UCSB lost to both at home, 56-49 and 61-49 respectively. This season, they hope the results will turn out differently.
“You always have a little chip on your shoulder and it always kind of carries with you,” senior center Mekia Valentine said. “There is definitely a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth every time you lose to a team and have to play them again, but I think we are really just trying to play our game and stick with what we do best, and go into it with a fresh and positive attitude.”
UCLA, the # 15 team in the nation is coming off a season in which they advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, and Pepperdine qualified for the NIT last year.
“In particular with UCLA, we want to challenge ourselves against some of the best teams out there,” coach Gottlieb said. “That’s what UCSB women’s basketball wants to be about, where we are playing the best teams in the country and showing that hopefully we can hang with them and beat some teams like that.”
Pepperdine and UCLA focus heavily on defense and toughness. Both Johnson and Valentine said that they expect their upcoming opponents to come out ready to play and give them a tough time.
“I think a lot of times a year it become mental just like preparing for the game, and now that we are coming into the game, most of it is mental and preparing,” Johnson said. “I think just remaining calm and poised in our sets on defense is important. Pepperdine tries to rattle you and we just have to play our game.”
Valentine claims that the Gauchos match up well with UCLA this year.
“I think they are super athletic, they are really quick and they are more of an NBA set-type of team, where they pass the ball around and they all specialize in one-on-one game,” she said. “And I think all of us can match up one-on-one this year.”
Regular season play opens on Friday for the Gauchos when they play at 6 p.m. at Pepperdine, and continues on Sunday at 2 p.m. against UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.