What a wild ride!
Over the last four months, the UC San Diego men and women’s basketball teams each overcame the loss of key players, persevered through adversity and, as league favorites, overcame the pressure of entering each game with a target on its back.
Despite all that, they just kept winning.
In their penultimate season of NCAA Division II competition, the Triton basketball teams combined to win nearly 90 percent of their games, claimed California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular season and tournament titles, ranked among the top 10 in the nation and claimed first round victories in the NCAA Tournament.
Both Mikayla Williams and Chris Hansen were named CCAA Players of the Year, while Brianna Claros earned league Freshman of the Year honors on the women’s side and Tyrell Roberts was selected as the men’s Newcomer of the Year.
The best news’ All four, along with seven of the 10 primary starters between the two teams, return next year for UC San Diego’s last season as a member of NCAA Division II.
In summer 2020, the entire Triton athletics program will officially transition to NCAA Division I with the majority of its teams becoming members of the Big West Conference.
CCAA Coach of the Year Heidi VanDerveer and the UC San Diego women registered the finest season in program history by almost every measure. The Tritons lost just once en route to a remarkable 30-1 record and were ranked No. 2 in the nation throughout most of the season.
The team’s win total was its highest in program history and its CCAA regular season title marked its fourth straight. The team enters next season having won 36 straight regular season games with 32 straight coming at the expense of league opponents.
The Triton women have won 19 straight games in the beautifully renovated RIMAC Arena.
Williams, one of the nation’s top scholar-athletes as a Google Cloud Academic All-America honoree, joins Hayleigh Hatfield and Sydney Sharp as returning starters next season. The trio combined for 92 of a possible 94 starts this year.
Early in the season, Head Coach Eric Olen’s men suffered the loss of returning all-league senior Christian Oshita. Despite Oshita’s absence, Olen guided his team to a 26-8 overall record and the program’s third straight CCAA Tournament title. The Tritons ranked as high as sixth nationally during the season and claimed a share of the league’s regular season title.
Next season, the Tritons lose experienced senior guard Christian Bayne. However, Oshita returns to rejoin starters Hansen, Roberts, Scott Everman and Mikey Howell to form what is sure to be considered one of the nation’s top starting units.
With such stocked cupboards returning, UC San Diego basketball fans have a lot to look forward to next season as the Tritons look to close out its Division II era with another national title.
Hang on, it is sure to be another wild ride!