UNFINISHED BUSINESS: The 2019-20 regular season finale was a thriller at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, as Miller’s baseline jumper with 0.2 seconds remaining lifted the Gauchos to a 57-56 victory over the Rainbow Wahine and a promising No. 2 seed in the Big West Tournament. But before they could launch their bid for the NCAA’s “Big Dance,” the postseason was cancelled by the pandemic, and UC Santa Barbara was never at full strength last season because of Lane’s absence and injuries. “We definitely want to pick up where we left off,” Miller says.
SHARPSHOOTERS: Lacking a post presence, the Gauchos were primarily snipers on the perimeter last season. They nearly upset UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament by burying a record 18 three-point baskets, though the Anteaters prevailed 92-90. UC Santa Barbara’s three high scorers in that game have returned – senior guard/forward Taylor Mole (24 points per game), a slender 6’2” Australian who was also the team’s leading rebounder in 2020-21; Miller (18 points) and senior guard Megan Anderson (16 points). Anderson is the older sister of Cole Anderson, a freshman sharpshooter on the UC Santa Barbara men’s team. Returning guards sophomore Alyssa Marin and senior Lauren Lee also hit threes.
REINFORCEMENTS: Two transfers have joined the Gaucho fold, 5’11” junior guard Alexis Tucker from Texas Tech and 6’2” junior forward Tatyana Modawar from University of Texas at El Paso. They are joined by Johnni Gonzalez (5’6”), a junior point guard who sat out last year. First-year players trying to make an impact include Callie Cooper, a 5’6” point guard from Richardson, Texas; 5’11” guard Kennedy Johnson, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High; and Laurel Rockwood, a solid 6’4” post player from Henderson, Nevada, who has been challenging Lane in practice. “She’s just on me all the time,” Lane says. “I don’t know how to get away from it.”
COACHES OPTIMISM: “I’ve never felt this confident about our team,” Henrickson says. “We have quality and depth. Most of them have been together since the spring and have developed great cohesiveness. The defensive team will make us special.” Henrickson, who came to UC Santa Barbara after 11 years at Kansas, has had Nate Fripp at her side from day one. Other assistant coaches are second year Kaili McLaren, who played on two national championship teams at Connecticut; and Adrian Sanders, a newcomer from Southern University.