Fresno State will play its first away games of the women’s basketball season this weekend, a trip that arrives with good timing.
After a stunning loss a week ago to Cal State Northridge, coach Jaime White knows getting away and playing again is the best way to get rid of the “bad taste” of a 61-57 loss.
Fresno State will play twice at the Loyola Marymount Thanksgiving Classic, facing Belmont (2-3) at noon Friday and UC Irvine (0-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the on-campus Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles.
The Bulldogs figure to get a tough test from the Bruins, who return five starters from last season’s 24-9 team that won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to earn the program’s second NCAA Tournament bid. Last month, Belmont was voted the preseason favorite to win the OVC.
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“This will be a good test for us,” White said, “and I think this will be fun to get away as a team and bond and figure out a couple things about us and continue to play.”
What the Bulldogs (1-2) must figure out is how to alleviate pressure on 6-foot-3 junior center Bego Faz Davalos, who managed a triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 10 blocks) but became almost a one-woman show against the Matadors. The rest of the Bulldogs hit 15 of 53 shots.
It’s a task that team captains Emilie Volk, Tory Jacobs and Kendra Martin are taking on. Martin, a 5-11 senior forward who came to Fresno State as a junior college transfer, is back after ACL surgery last season. Jacobs is a 5-10 junior transfer from Minnesota in her first year of eligibility and Volk a 6-1 forward eager to leave her mark in her senior season.
“We’re still learning,” Martin said. “Our losses, those were tough. But we were in here back at it again the next day.”
Added Volk: “It’s been exciting, but also challenging stepping into a new role with this team. We’re much different from last year, and so we just need to own that as a team.”
Volk is one of just two Bulldogs from the pre-White era (she and Faz Davalos were recruited by coach Raegan Pebley, though the latter redshirted her true freshman season) and knows what a string of wins, especially on the road, can do for morale.
“I know the legacy of the program,” Volk said. “From my freshman year I’ve seen how it works and how it needs to go, so I don’t want to be a part of that team that put the brakes on it, but rather accelerated it.”
FRESNO STATE AT LOYOLA MARYMOUNT THANKSGIVING CLASSIC
- Friday: vs. Belmont, noon
- Saturday: vs. UC Irvine, 1 p.m.
- Records: Bulldogs 1-2, Bruins 2-3, Anteaters 0-4
- Webcast: West Coast Conference Network (livestream.com/
- The skinny: Bruins have lost three of past four. Kylee Smith averages 15.2 points per game and Darby Maggard 11.8. Belmont was preseason Ohio Valley Conference favorite and earned votes in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 after reaching NCAA Tournament a year ago. … Anteaters open tourney against Loyola (1-3) on Friday. Irvine picked eighth in Big West preseason polls.