Vulcans bounced from NCAA Tournament

The Women’s Vulcans basketball team couldn’t overcome the West Chester Golden Rams


Cal U Women's Basketball

The 2023 PSAC Women’s Basketball Champions, California Vulcans, earned their seventh PSAC Championship and first since back to back wins in 2015/2016

Andrew White, Staff Writer

After a dominant performance from the Lady Vulcans (21-11) in the PSAC Tournament, they were given the tough task of playing West Chester (23-8) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. 

The Vulcans came into the game ranked as a six-seed while West Chester was ranked as a three-seed. This was the start of a major tournament and both teams were ready to put their names on the map, especially West Chester, who hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament in nearly two decades, their last win coming in 2003.  

The Vulcans were playing in their eighth-consecutive appearance in this tournament after taking the crown at the PSAC tournament last week, including a win against West Chester in the Semifinals, scoring 62-59. They had seen consistent success against West Chester in the past, as they had won nine straight meetings coming into Friday’s game.  

The game started out slow for the Vulcans, as the first quarter came to an end with the score being 22-7 in favor of West Chester. A slow start hurt the Vulcans big time, as they shot 3-20 in the first quarter, marking their lowest-scoring first quarter of the season with only seven points total. Coming back from being down 15 is a tough task, especially when the game being played has playoff intentions.

The Vulcans bounced back in the second quarter, however, out-scoring the Golden Rams 23-15, cutting their lead to seven going into halftime, 37-30. The Vulcans started the second quarter on a 9-2 run, as they cut down the deficit to eight on a basket by Rajah Fink with just over seven minutes left before halftime. Cal later posted a 7-2 rally, starting with a clutch three-point shot by Junior guard Halle Herrington, to make it only a two-possession game, 30-25, with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. The teams traded buckets for the rest of the quarter with the Golden Rams taking a 37-30 lead at halftime. 

Senior guard Ciaira Loyd led the way in scoring with 11 points at halftime, making five of her 13 attempts from the floor. Loyd has been a crucial piece in the Vulcan’s success this season, as she is averaging 14.5 points per game along with nearly seven assists as well. The ball-dominant guard posted a career-high 36 points on her Senior Day in their 88-84 overtime win over IUP on Feb. 23, 2023. Making a splash in the NCAA Tournament would be a story-book ending to a wonderful career for Loyd.

Throughout the third quarter, the two teams went back and forth on offense, but the tempo was controlled by California, as they seemed to be playing with more of an edge than the Golden Rams, out-scoring them again in the third, 20-14. This meant that going into the fourth quarter, the Vulcans were only down one point, 51-50, doing everything they could to mount some sort of a comeback.

Another Vulcans senior, Rajah Fink, who proved to be a vital piece in the Vulcans offense throughout the year, showed up with a great game. She managed to put up 18 points on 9-of-18 shooting, including pulling in eight rebounds. Fink is the first Vulcan to average a double-double in a season since Seairra Barrett in 2016.

Despite a valiant effort, the Vulcans ended up falling short in the NCAA Tournament matchup, as West Chester caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 29 points in the final 10 minutes of the game. The offensive firepower was too much for California to handle, as the Golden Rams started the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 62-50 with six minutes left to play. The Vulcans continued to fight, posting an 8-1 run, cutting the lead down to 67-63 with just over two minutes to play. However, West Chester stepped on the throats of the Vulcans by scoring seven unanswered points within 60 seconds to increase their lead back up to double-digits, which ended up putting the Vulcans away.

The Vulcans were slightly outplayed offensively, as they shot 28-of-68 (42%), including 4-18 (22%) from the three point line, in comparison to West Chester, who shot 30-of-56 (54%) for the game. Golden Rams Junior Leah Johnson set a single-game scoring record of 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, and made all 9 attempts from the free throw line. 

The Vulcans season comes to an end at the hands of the West Chester Golden Rams by a final score of 80-67.