During the second half of the women’s basketball game, the Slugs score a basket against Holy Names University. Photo by Morgan Grana.
Photo by Morgan Grana.

Five more points. Down 52-57 to Holy Names University, the UC Santa Cruz women’s basketball team was on an 8-0 run in the second half, looking to pass the Holy Names Hawks. What seemed like a classic underdog story for the Slugs turned as Holy Names found a way to hold on and win, with a final score of 75-68.

The loss against Holy Names gives UCSC women’s basketball a season ranking of 6-10. With nine games left before the NCAA Championships in February, head coach Todd Kent is optimistic.

“We are still in position to make the post season, since we’re in third place, but we need to put together a winning streak,” he said. “We have a game coming up against our rival Chapman [University] at home, and I think we have a better team against them than ever.”

The Slugs came out of halftime swinging. Down 31-38, the Slugs adjusted their strategy to better match Holy Names’ potent offense. Shooting guard Kelly Gregg explained their strategy.

“We always try to bring an aggressive home game, especially against a team that is number one in their conference,” she said. “In the second half, coach told us to be even more aggressive, so that’s what we did.”

Coach Kent noticed the Slugs were not matching the athletic Holy Names team very well. Kent reacted by switching the Slugs to a 2-3 zone defense from a man-to-man defense. The new defense caused Holy Names to start turning over the ball and forcing shots. This change was the catalyst for the Slugs’ big run.

“It was frustrating that we didn’t use our defense when we really needed to,” he said. “It went well, and we played well in spots, but inexperience and a few mental mistakes hurt us.”

The team is young, but talented. Currently, the Slugs start two freshmen and three seniors.

Freshman center Sarah Mackey is one of nine freshmen on the team. Mackey is in the top five in the nation in blocks, with 3.31 per game. Mackey blocked seven shots to go along with her 15 rebounds and two steals last Tuesday.

Mackey’s shot blocking is a nice surprise for the Slugs. Mackey feels the blocked shots helped her take charge defensively in a very physical game. In the second half alone, there were 19 fouls recorded by both teams.

“Most of my aggression comes from blocking shots,” Mackey said. “It’s what get’s me going.”

Senior point guard Jen Marquez said the Slugs were undone by their concentration. Marquez noted the team shot too many forced three-pointers in the second half to continue challenging Holy Names.

“We wanted to attack the basket and get fouled,” Marquez said. “We just lost focus and it killed us.”

Coach Kent feels this lack of focus is part of coaching a young team.

“We’re still looking for that one animal on the team that will really start calling the plays and leading the team, but a lot of that really just comes from experience,” he said.

UCSC women’s basketball will host games at home against Menlo University on Jan. 14, and Chapman University on Jan. 20. Jan. 21 the team will head up to Redding in a match against Simpson University. Additional reporting provided by Michael Mott.