“We don’t talk about it,” head coach Charity Elliott said of the ranking, “and try to keep blinders on.”
It’s this unwavering determination that has proven successful for Elliott and the team. Although she acknowledged the ranking is a “huge honor,” she tries to keep her team focused, she said.
“We are constantly talking about ‘our standard’ and asking ourselves if we are playing to our standard,” she said.
The UCSD standard seems to be marked by a fast tempo game with great defense and an upbeat playing style.
The team was disappointed it did not make the regional tournament last year after losing to Cal Poly Pomona in the CCAA tournament, Elliott said, but it was perhaps that loss that helped them build this season’s team when they started training last spring.
Their hard work, meanwhile, seems to be paying off. The only losses the team has suffered so far were two exhibition games, against perennial powerhouse Stanford and SDSU — both Div. 1 teams. Elliott said those games were actually “good confidence boosters,” because the team was able to “find out in a hurry their strengths and weaknesses against that caliber of team.”
Some of her team’s strengths, she said, is coming from its seniors, Chelsea Carlisle, Daisy Feder and Lauren Freidenberg. With its aggressive playing style with a lot of fast breaks and trapping on defense, the team is “very unselfish in that it isn’t centered on just one player,” Elliott said. “We are constantly looking for players with high caliber character and the potential to be program changing.”
Meanwhile, she described her coaching style as “extremely positive with high expectations.”
She said some of the challenges her team faces come in the form of recruiting with such high academic standards at UCSD and the lack of available scholarships. Elliott, however, has managed to use that situation to her advantage.
“It gives us the opportunity to give more borderline players opportunities [to play and to prove themselves],” she said.
On Feb. 10, the team will face one of its toughest competitors. Chico State, which lost to UCSD on Jan. 7 in double overtime, will try to redeem itself.
“They played fantastic,” she said, calling the game a “great learning tool.” As for the rematch, her team, she said, is “looking forward to it.”
UCSD has also started a campaign to move up to Div. 1 in NCAA athletics. UCSD, which has competed in Div. 2 since 2000, would like to have all of its athletic teams competing at the Div. 1 level by 2013-14.
Elliott supports the move and said she feels the university is well suited for Div. 1 athletics. The move, however, wouldn’t change the way she goes about leading her program. The transition, she said, would probably be a smooth one, as scholarships would be increasingly available at the Div. 1 level. Recruiting against upper level teams, she said, “poses new challenges and would be very exciting.”
“It’s not about the division or level but more about changing kid’s lives for the positive,” she said. “It’s just about enjoying every single day.”