Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Junior forward Mikayla Williams (left), freshman forward Kendal Ellenbeck and the Tritons have begun practice fo the 2018-19 season.

Tritons Begin Practice with 'Gritty' Attitude


LA JOLLA, Calif. — It didn’t take long for Mikayla Williams to think of a response.

When the returning first-team all-conference forward was asked about the message from her coaches prior to the opening days of practice, there was no hesitation.

“The main thing is being gritty,” Williams said. “We want to go after it and not let anything stop us. We’ve got to have that passion, drive and attention to detail.”

UC San Diego is coming off a 28-5 season in 2017-18 — its highest win total since 2011-12 — and earned its third-consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season championship in the process.

The Tritons won 21-of-22 conference games, had two double-digit winning streaks and claimed a victory in the NCAA West Region Tournament for the second time in the last three seasons.

Seventh-year head coach Heidi VanDerveer acknowledged the habits created in the opening days of September practice set the tone for the rest of the season.

“It’s a journey,” said VanDerveer. “Every day our goal is to get better individually and collectively so when March comes, we’re the best team we can be.”

Williams is among a core of returning players who appeared in at least 26 games last season, while the team adds four freshmen as well as junior transfer Haleigh Hatfield to the mix.

Williams, a junior forward from Meath Park, Saskatchewan, Canada, is ecstatic to have the entire team on the court together following a long summer of working out with a small group of returners.

“It’s exciting to have everyone here,” said Williams, who averaged a team-high 15 points along with 9.3 rebounds per game last season. “It’s great to be on the court running through our plays and seeing how everyone fits together.”

 VanDerveer is pleased with what she’s seen in the opening days of practice and is very enthusiastic about the potential of the 2018-19 squad.

“I think it’s always great having the first days of a championship season,” she said. “We have great energy and a very hard-working team, which is the foundation.

“We can’t waste a day or waste an opportunity to get better. I think that’s a trademark of our team.”

With a little grit sprinkled on top.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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