By Melanie Quijano
“Dad, are you kidding me, everything bagels? Who eats everything bagels?”
On top of providing us with two packs of the one type of bagel all fourteen of us hate, he made us bring our own cream cheese. What kind of dad does that to his children? Well, the kind that is a 24-year-old assistant coach, Matt Armstrong, who we jokingly started referring to as “dad” mid-season because of the tedious tasks he had to do taking care of us, his “children.”
The 2016-17 Point Loma women’s basketball team was one of the best teams I have been able to be a part of. We went 24-6, which was the best record the Lady Sea Lions have held since the 2009-10 season when PLNU was still in the GSAC conference as an NAIA program. We had players named to the All-PacWest first team, to the All-PacWest second team, and as honorable mentions. And yes, all of this was led by a first-year head coach, but there’s so much more that went behind the surface of what was seen this season.
From the stands, you can see Amy leading our bench by yelling all kinds of crazy cheers, Coach Lisa high-fiving each of us after Anna takes a charge, and Roya sinking three, after three, after three. It was fun, and we did good.
Now that two weeks have passed since our last game, we’ve been able to actually reflect on the season as a whole instead of being absorbed with the sad and angry emotions from losing to Cal Baptist basically three times in a row.
“Looking back, the season had its ups and downs but overall was enjoyable,” said junior guard Roya Rustamzada. “Being that this was basically a new team we did really well and I was proud of how far we came.”
We did come a long way. Head coach Lisa Faulkner pointed out our progress despite the shortcomings we faced.
“While we may have lost the game, I view the season and experience as a success because of the way this team loved playing for each other,” said Faulkner. “It was very challenging to have to play Cal Baptist for the fourth time this season and very disappointing to go to Alaska and lose to them again, but I couldn’t be more proud of the way we competed.”
Our final regular season conference game was at Cal Baptist on their senior night, where our senior guard Kassidy Gengenbacher hit two clutch threes to get us into overtime. We fought, but it wasn’t enough to hold Kamille Diaz from scoring 43 points. The following week we beat Hawaii Pacific University to face Cal Baptist again, but now in the PacWest championship game.
Both the PLNU men’s and the women’s teams made it to the championship game in Irvine, but fell short and returned to Loma as runners-up. The PacWest Championship concluded the men’s season; meanwhile our team had to prepare for the West Regional Tournament, which was assumed to take place at the University of Alaska Anchorage with them as the No. 1 seed.
Sleeves rolled up, eyes staring up at the screen, and wings everywhere, friends and family joined our team at Buffalo Wild Wings for a viewing party, anticipating to see who we would face in the first round.
#7 Point Loma Nazarene… #2 Cal Baptist University
Once again, we were going to play Cal Baptist. Unfortunately, we lost in another overtime match. We shared some tears in the locker room, but all was well. Every time we played that team and the jump ball was tossed in the air, it was like a coin was being flipped. There’s a 50/50 chance of landing on either side, but somehow Cal Baptist always ended up on top.
“[For] my last season, I wanted to devote my time and have basketball as my top priority while taking care of my body and putting in effort to not settle for just being average,” our captain and point guard Anna Viettry said. “Having a new coach my last year helped do that for me, and having this great team work hard… and [be] a joy to hang around just sparked my passion even higher my last year… I couldn’t ask for any other way to go out.”
The way we competed every day, from conditioning workouts on the track to 6 a.m. practices before class, that is what made us the capable team everyone saw.
“Most of our team was returners and only one girl left from last season, so we knew there would be a strong chemistry. But I don’t think anyone expected us to actually play as well as we did,” Viettry concluded.
Personally, I developed so many friendships and forgot that we were a basketball team half the time. Travelling with these girls and our coaches felt no different than having family trips. Five months into the season, one of our assistant coaches passed away, but Walt’s funny, positive, and diligent spirit never left us. Anna got baptized on one trip, and all of us got to witness and support her brave step of faith on her walk with God. Coach Lisa, the disciplined, introverted coach who seemed to have a detector monitoring if any of us tried to eat a cookie, actually took us out for ice cream after our undefeated run in Hawaii. On top of that, she kind of started to talk to us, and laugh.
The stats are all in the record books, and the season was a hit on paper. No doubt, each one of us players improved in different aspects of the game. The hardworking mentality, the collective desire to reach our potential, and the millions of smiles we shared is what I’ll really take away from this team. It was truly a year to remember, and a solid foundation for what is to come in the PLNU women’s basketball program.