PASADENA (Mar. 28, 2019) – The 2018-19 Caltech women's basketball campaign proved to be a ground-breaking year with the Beavers collecting an exorbanent amount of milestones and personal achievements en route to the best season in the 23-year history of the program.
The season began on a promising note with four wins in five games, the fastest the Beavers have ever been to four wins. As the year progressed, the gritty, and often short-handed/injury-riddled group continued to develop through adversity. A process-oriented mindset that focused on the concept of containing and controlling the pace of the game would be crucial to their success throughout the toughest points of the season. The Beavers then faced some gut-wrenching defeats to begin SCIAC play, losing four straight games by two points or fewer. The determined squad, led by Head Coach Bridgette Reyes refused to be beaten however and capitalized on these opportunities to rally together.
"It was a tough stretch for our team," Reyes said. "They could have given up and instead chose to dig deeper. Our quote this year was 'You become what you believe.' By re-centering and focusing on this mantra, they embraced adversity, created an even stronger team chemistry and started achieving their goals game by game."
With new-found energy and purpose, the Beavers hit their stride in late January. The month culminated in the program achieving numerous all-time bests. After beating California Lutheran University for the first time in history and setting the school record for wins in a season, Reyes had a message for her squad.
"The toughest teams find ways to win and through your grit and tenacity, you have done just that," the Caltech head coach said.
The breakthrough victory over the Regals marked the beginning of a new era for Caltech women’s basketball. Becoming the all-time winningest team in program history awakened an even deeper hunger for continued success and historical achievements. Buying into the process, exhibiting patience and persistence, and reaping the benefits of their hard work created a cultural shift in the squad. The Beavers' willingness to dedicate themselves to perfecting the details every day led to two more SCIAC victories and double-digit wins to cap off the season.
"This season brought out something special and unique in our team," senior guard Nika Haleftiras (San Diego, Calif. / Our Lady of Peace) said. "We found our spark and I am proud of the successes we were able to accomplish. It was extremely humbling to be a part of the growth of this team."
The lessons learned from such a historic season through reflection will inevitably help the women's basketball program in continuing to move forward. Despite having the smallest roster in the league, the Beavers closed 2019 as the second-best defensive team in the conference by several metrics. Caltech pulled down 28 defensive rebounds per game, held opponents to 60.5 points per game and a school-record 35.2 percent shooting from the field. In addition to recording the most SCIAC wins in school history, the Beavers also thrived on the offensive side of the ball, setting program bests in season point total (1478), field goal percentage (38.8 percent), total assists (340) and fewest turnovers (364). In addition to these team-related accolades, several individuals set marks as well:
Senior center Elizabeth Eiden (White Plains, N.Y. / Holy Child) became the first Caltech basketball player, men's or women's to be named to First Team All-SCIAC as well as D3Hoops.com Third Team All-Region, one of just two SCIAC players to make all-region this year. The 6-foot-3 Eiden now has her name intertwined with a lengthy list of Caltech records, including field goal percentage in a season (60.1) and career (51.7), single-season field goals (179), defensive rebounds in a season (194), blocks in a season (75) and double-doubles in a season (15), in addition to becoming the first Caltech basketball player to ever block more than 200 shots in a career (227). Another senior, forward Madeline Schemel (Westport, Conn. / Staples) hit a milestone of her own when she crossed the 500-rebound threshhold, while Haleftiras became the all-time assist leader with 90 on the season and 228 on her career. Additionally, junior guard Grace Peng (San Ramon, Calif. / California) added to her SCIAC accolades when she became a two-time Second Team All-SCIAC recipient.
"I’m proud of all that we were able to accomplish this season," Peng said. "I’m excited to build on that chemistry and success to continue taking steps forward."
The seniors have left an indelible mark on the program and the returners will be looking to continue the legacy and upward trajectory under Reyes’s leadership. The future looks bright and it will be exciting to see what this group can accomplish in the years to come.
"I’m incredibly proud of how our team’s evolved over the past four years and the new standard of competitiveness that we have set for our program," Eiden said.