This time the California University women’s basketball team didn’t leave anything up to chance.
After losing Wednesday to Seton Hill in the PSAC regular season finale on a half-court shot by guard Paige Alvaiani, the Vulcans got another crack at Seton Hill Saturday in the first round of the PSAC Tournament.
California used explosive runs to close both halves and a tough defensive effort to cruise to a 74-59 victory. The Vulcans outscored the Griffins 25-11 in the final 10:27 of the game, limiting Seton Hill to only three field goals in that span.
With the win, the Vulcans advance to the quarterfinals of the PSAC Tournament Tuesday where they will face No. 2 Gannon (25-2), who has defeated Cal twice this season.
Against Seton Hill, the Vulcans started out nicely, taking a 13-6 lead, but the Griffins put together a 14-2 run and built a 20-15 first-half lead.
Cal guard Kaitlyn Fratz scored the teams’ first five points, showing early emotion her teammates emulated.
“I was fired up,” said Fratz. “I figured if I showed emotion, we all would. We came out with the mindset of protecting our home floor and we did that.”
Seton Hill started out very efficient from the floor, making eight of their first 11 shots, but the Vulcans turned up the heat defensively, got some stops, and put together a big run of their own.
California outscored Seton Hill 20-6 over a six-minute span to take a 35-26 lead with three minutes remaining in the half. The run was sparked by the Vulcans’ defense, which forced eight first-half turnovers, but also some timely shooting.
Ashley Hines got to the line to complete a three-point play and Emma Mahady, Kaitlynn Fratz, Miki Glenn and Irina Kukolj all drained three-point shots during the run.
The Vulcans took a 43-36 lead into the locker room, shooting 51.7 percent from the floor during the game’s first 20 minutes.
The defensive intensity continued in the second half for the Vulcans, as they held Seton Hill without a field goal for the first four minutes.
“They are a tough team, but we had the mindset of being outstanding defensively,” said California head coach Jess Strom. “We had a bull’s-eye of 55 points and they already had 36 at the half so we came out of the locker room wanting to get that bullseye.”
However, Cal had their struggles offensively to start the second half as well, making only four of their first 17 attempts of the half, turning the ball over four times and watching their lead get trimmed to three at the end of the third quarter with a 51-48 advantage.
“We aren’t a pretty team,” said Strom. “When we struggle to score that means we have to pick it up defensively and have our defense create easy baskets. That was the message.”
Despite the offensive struggles, the Vulcans’ defense continued to make things difficult, forcing 21 turnovers on the night that Cal turned into 24 points. Even though Seton Hill shot 48.9 percent from the floor, nothing came easy.
“I don’t think we gave our best effort defensively Wednesday night,” said Cal’s Emma Mahady, who led all scorers with 19 points. “We were determined to be aggressive defensively and prove that was a fluky loss.”
After Seton Hill pulled to within three, the Vulcans held them without a field goal for the next nine minutes down the stretch, going on an 11-2 run to put the game away. Kukolj supplied the dagger with her second three-pointer of the night, extending Cal’s lead to double digits.
In addition to Mahdy’s big night, Kukolj (14), Fratz (12) and Miki Glenn (12) all finished in double figures for the Vulcans.
Kelly Brennan led Seton Hill with 14 points.
“It was a big win,” said Strom. “Now we have to get ready for Gannon. We know them and they know us well. Whoever defends better will likely come out on top.”