Selection to Send-off: CSUN Women’s Basketball is Ready for NCAA Tournament

  • PUB was filled.

    The PUB Sports Grill was filled with students, who all joined in the excitement when the announcement was made about playing Stanford. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Selection show celebration

    The moment that the Matadors found out they were taking on Stanford. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Matty the Matador got into the picture with the players and some young fans. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Cutting the cake.

    Ashlee Guay started things off by cutting the Big West championship cake. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Cheerleaders

    The cheerleading and songleading squads helped fire up the fans. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

  • Katelin King

    Katelin King was one of the first Matadors heading toward the bus bound for Palo Alto. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

  • Group shot before boarding the bus.

    Time for a quick photo before getting on the bus. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

  • Janae Sharpe gets a hug.

    The players got some personal send-off hugs from friends and fans. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

  • Coach Jason Flowers.

    Head Coach Jason Flowers said his team is confident going into the tournament for the second consecutive year. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

  • Signing the poster.

    Students and fans signed a large poster for the Matadors. Photo by Viktor Kamont.

Few moments rival the instantaneous celebration that happened as the CSUN Women’s Basketball team watched ESPN’s Selection Show on the afternoon of March 16. About one-third of the way through the program, up on the screen popped “(4) Stanford vs. (13) CSUN,” and the packed PUB Sports Grill on campus erupted with celebratory howls and cheers.

The Matadors, having just two days prior won their school-record 23rd game with a 67-60 victory over Hawaii in the Big West Tournament title game, had a date to go dancing at Stanford’s Maples Pavilion on March 21 at 3:30 p.m. PST (the game is on ESPN2). The celebrated senior class of Guay, Cinnamon Lister, Randi Friess, Camille Mahlknecht and Janae Sharpe – the latter two earning Big West Conference Defensive Players of the Year the last two seasons, respectively – was leading the way to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.

The confidence of having been there last year, when the Matadors battled valiantly but lost to No. 1 seed South Carolina in the first round, gives the Matadors a good feeling that this year’s result could be different when they take on Stanford up north. Head Coach Jason Flowers even used an interesting analogy for getting there the second time around.

“It’s like the first time you go to Disneyland as a little kid, you can’t sleep the night before,” Flowers said. “It’s like Christmas morning. Disneyland is just as great the second, third and fourth time, but your approach to it is completely different. Maybe things you missed the first time because you were so wired up, you get to enjoy and experience the second time around.

“In that sense, the experience of being in the tournament really helps.”

The Matadors go into this contest riding the wave of a nine-game winning streak. With Sharpe leading a full-court press that caused a multitude of turnovers, Mahlknecht and Tessa Boagni filling up the middle, Guay attacking the basket on fearless drives and Lister raining three-pointers from the outside, CSUN goes into this game playing at the peak of its powers.

“That gives us so much motivation,” Guay said. “We’re all on the same page and we all want this as bad as the person next to us. Seeing that gives us hope and letting us know that we are here and we are going to give our best effort just like everyone else.”

Guay said the added benefit of playing in Northern California will make it easier for family, friends and CSUN fans to make the trip to the tournament. Even with this being the second time for she and many of her teammates, few moments off the court rival those seconds of adrenaline and passion that came through at the PUB when the team found out who they were playing.

“I was in shock. It was shock and excitement,” Guay said. “I turned to my teammates and just said, ‘Yes!’ It was a great feeling. Even the second time around it was still that excited feeling. I don’t think that’ll ever change. If you’ve been growing up playing basketball and watching this on TV, and now it’s happening to you. It’s such a crazy feeling.”

That feeling carried over into the send-off celebration on March 19, when the campus community came together to bid the Matador Women’s Basketball team farewell as they boarded the bus for the ride to Northern California. The CSUN band played with verve, as the songleaders and cheerleaders kept in time. Students, faculty, staff, family members and members of of other CSUN Athletics teams joined in to show their excitement and support for the university’s representatives in the NCAA Tournament.

“I’m really happy for our kids,” Flowers said. “I don’t think people completely grasp or understand what goes into the day to day of trying to make this a reality. It’s one thing to talk about it. Every team, at the beginning of the year talks about doing this. To actually put in the work and the effort, and actually do it and have the opportunity to go out and do something that you love to do and dream about doing, is just big time for our kids.