In the 2014-2015 season, both the California Baptist University men’s and women’s basketball teams participated in two NCAA Division II basketball tournaments and expect greater success this season.
The women finished last season with a 24-4 record overall as the first runner-up at the NCAA Division II championships, falling to California University of Pennsylvania. This season, the women were ranked in the top spot of the PacWest preseason poll and debuted this season at the No. 3 spot in the NCAA Division II, two spots above 2015 NCAA DII champions, California University of Pennsylvania.
Jarrod Olson, head coach of the women’s basketball team, emphasized having confidence in knowing what is in store for the season.
“Knowing what you are encountering is always going to be a benefit,” Olson said. “The fact that you were in the championship and nothing is going to catch you off guard; the women should have confidence.”
Olson said he expects a different season this year, expecting to take on new opponents.
“Every season is going to be different and it is going to add some challenges,” Olson added.
Kamille Diaz, junior sociology major and guard, said the memory of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship game last year stayed with her even when the school year ended.
“Once summer came, I had worked hard to get where we left off,” Diaz said.
Diaz said teamwork paved the way to success in the NCAA Tournament.
“We saw a glimpse of what we could be,” Diaz added. “Once we got to the tournament, we just meshed together and kept winning.”
Cassidy Mihalko, junior business administration major and guard, agreed that the team’s success was credited to the team’s chemistry.
“It was a process that took a whole year,” Mihalko said. “We were really close and we all clicked right away from a friendship standpoint, but on the court we were getting used to how everyone plays.”
The men’s team debuts this season with similar expectations, debuting in the NCAA Division II at the No. 11 spot. Last season, the men’s basketball team finished the season with a 26-7 record, but was defeated by Azusa Pacific University for the NCAA Division II West Regional Championship title.
Rick Croy, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said the team strives to motivate one another strongly during the entire season.
“We have got a very motivated group,” Croy said. “These early challenges are going to be great for us, and we are going to have to be on our game early.”
Michael Smith, junior business administration major and guard, put an emphasis on hard work and determination, confident that those elements will bring the team success.
“We worked really hard in the spring, summer and fall to prepare ourselves for a big push,” Smith said. “I feel like we can touch the sky.”