The UCSB women’s basketball team was forced to take the good news with the bad news on Monday.
The good news came in the form of sophomore center Lindsay Taylor being named Big West Player of the Week for her play in the Stanford Invitational. The bad news was a surprise to the Gauchos, when sophomore forward Jessica Combs abruptly decided to leave the team in order to focus more on academics.
“I’ve just been burned out on basketball for a long time now, even before I got to college,” Combs said. “I don’t love the game, and academics are the main thing for me now. It’s really difficult to focus on school and have a good major with basketball taking up so much time.”
Combs’ decision seemed to come out of the blue. The Chandler, Arizona native had played in both of Santa Barbara’s games this season, but scored only two points in 15 minutes of action over both contests.
“It’s a tough decision for any athlete to make to withdraw from a team,” former teammate Lisa Willett said. “We all support her decision. I feel bad that it wasn’t fun for her [to play basketball] anymore.”
Former high school, and now ex-college, teammate Lindsay Taylor said she had been waiting for Combs to make this decision for a number of years.
“I wasn’t stunned, I wasn’t shocked,” Taylor said of her roommates’ decision. “I was more relieved because I knew she hadn’t been happy playing basketball the last couple of years. I’ve been waiting for her to listen to her heart and do what’s right for her.”
Monday was a bittersweet day for Taylor, as she earned Big West Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career on the same day that Combs left the team. Taylor averaged 21 points and nine rebounds a game over the opening weekend.
Despite the disappointing news concerning Combs, Taylor was able to enjoy her personal accolade, albeit in a somewhat reticent manner.
“It’s great that [the Big West] takes notice of what we are doing as a team,” Taylor said. “But it’s still the beginning of the season and we still have a lot more games to play. There are still almost 30 games to look forward to.”
Taylor’s teammates weren’t quite as reserved concerning her accomplishment.
“We all know what type of player Lindsay can be,” Willett said. “She’s an awesome player and will be a big part of this team. We’re all excited to watch her and see her develop as a player.”
Former teammate Combs echoed Willett’s sentiments.
“She’s been playing great, so I’m really happy for her,” she said. “She’s a good player and she’s only going to keep getting better.”
Santa Barbara will need Taylor to continue putting up huge numbers with the departure of Combs, starting tonight against #18 Penn State in the Gauchos’ home opener. UCSB fell to the Nittany Lions last season at PSU, but this year Santa Barbara promises to be more prepared.
“It should be a great home opener,” senior forward Kayte Christensen said on Sunday. “There’s no revenge factor. To be honest, I don’t know very much about their team. But it’s going to be interesting and everyone is looking forward to it.”