Students return for Cal State Stanislaus playoff run

bvanderbeek@modbee.comJanuary 30, 2014 

— With both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Cal State Stanislaus on pace to post winning records and reach the California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, you’d think student spirit would be at an all-time high.

After all, it’s been 11 years since both teams finished the same season with records over .500.

While the crowds for the home games have been good, averaging about 450 per start, the students haven’t so far shared in the fun. But it’s hard to blame them, since this year – like every other – a large chunk of the season falls during winter break. Simply, the students haven’t been on campus.

So, with the spring semester having started on Monday, the crowds should be larger and offer more youthful exuberance when the Warriors take on San Francisco State tonight and Sonoma State on Saturday. The women’s game starts at 5:30 p.m. both nights, with the men tipping off around 7:30.

“For the games we’ve had, with no students on campus, the crowds have been very good, but I’m sure the guys will be happy to finally play in front of our students,” said men’s coach Larry Reynolds. “There will be reminders in the cafeteria and in the quad and all kinds of stuff going out electronically, and I hope the students want to know what the teams are like. I’m sure they’ve heard a little about us and now it’s up to us to show that we deserve their support.”

The top six teams in the CCAA earn invitations to the conference tournament March 6-8 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, and both Warriors teams may be able to maintain top-six positions simply by holding serve at Fitzpatrick Arena, where they play six of their final 10 games.

The men are 11-5 overall and 7-5 in conference play, which makes them one of three teams tied for fourth place. The women are 10-6, 7-5 and are one of three teams tied for fifth.

“This is the first time in a long time that games at this point of the season have huge meaning and can vault us into a very good position in the top six,” said women’s coach Wayman Strickland. “We could have won three or four more games, but there's not way anyone could have foreseen this program having 10 wins with 10 games left. There haven't been any games where we've had to hope the other team has a bad night for us to be able to compete.”

The extra support will come in handy for the teams that right now have to feel like road Warriors. The Stanislaus teams went winless last weekend in their scenic journey through the Golden State. They bused north about 374 miles for a game Thursday at Humboldt State, bused 680 miles south for a Saturday game at Cal Poly Pomona, then bused the 330 miles back home.

“That was a tough trip,” said athletic director Mike Matoso. “Humboldt is a tough place to play because they draw well and it’s a different environment than anyplace else in the conference. Then we had to turn right around and go down to SoCal. We have a lot of new kids in the program and it takes a lot of adjustment for them to get used to those kinds of trips.”

Strickland, for one, has yet to adjust to the annual trek.

“It’s a horrific road trip made worse when you play the way we did,” Strickland said. “Everybody in our league has to go through it but not everybody has to bus it like we do. Most of the teams in the CCAA fly a portion of the trip and doing that takes about eight hours off their bodies.

“The ride to Humboldt is scenic and if I were more of a nature lover you would have seen my photos on Instagram. I'm not and I didn’t, but it is pretty.”

Softball

The Warrior softball team opens play this weekend by hosting the annual Best of the West Invitational at Pedretti Sports Complex.

Stanislaus plays three games Saturday – 11 a.m. against Domincan, 1:15 p.m. against Holy Names and 5:45 against CSU Dominguez Hills – then comes back Sunday to play Cal State Monterey Bay at 10 a.m. and San Francisco State and 12:15 p.m.

The Warriors struggled to a 9-27 record in CCAA play last season, 16-36 overall, but will return six starters this season, including Brittney Rickles, a senior shortstop from Hughson.

Baseball

Stanislaus will open its baseball season in an historic way next weekend, which is Homecoming on campus. After playing a doubleheader at Fresno Pacific on Fri., Feb. 7, the teams turn around for another doubleheader the following day.

First pitch on Feb. 8 is set for 4 p.m. and at some time in that first game the newly installed stadium lights will be switched-on, and at that moment the Warriors will be playing the first on-campus night game in school history.

The Warrior basketball teams will be playing that night against UC San Diego, and a single game ticket purchased for either baseball or basketball that night will get fans into both events.

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or (209) 578-2150. His blog is at www.modbee.com/brianvanderbeek.

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