Gross Repeats as Coach of the Year; Five Aggies Honored

March 5, 2018

2017-18 All-Big West Women's Basketball Teams

DAVIS, Calif. --
UC Davis head women's basketball coach Jennifer Gross was named the Big West Conference Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season and five Aggie student-athletes were honored according to a vote of the league's head coaches as the conference office released its annual postseason honor roll on Monday morning in advance of this week's conference tournament.

Junior forward Morgan Bertsch was named to the All-Big West first team for the second consecutive season, seniors Pele Gianotti and Rachel Nagel earned second team honors, senior Dani Nafekh was an honorable mention selection, and newcomer Cierra Hall was named to the All-Freshman Team.

With Bertsch's award, UC Davis is the only program to have at least one first-team honoree since joining the league in 2007-08. Hall's all-freshman team nod also marked the fourth consecutive year -- and the eighth time overall -- that the Aggies have had one of the league's top newcomers, joining Nafekh (2014-15), Bertsch (2015-16), and Nina Bessolo (2016-17).

In leading UC Davis to a league-best 24-5 overall record and a second conference regular season title with a 14-2 mark in league play, Gross was named the conference's top coach for the second straight year. The Aggies won the league title by three games in the standings, clinching the crown outright with a week remaining in the regular season, celebrating "Senior Day" with a 10-point win over UC Irvine at The Pavilion on Feb. 24.

UC Davis became the first Big West school to win outright conference regular season titles since UC Santa Barbara did the same form 2007-09, equalling the program record for Big West wins (14) and enter the postseason just one win shy of tying the school record for wins at the Division I level set last season.

Gross joins Sandy Simpson as two-time Big West coaches of the year after Simpson was twice named the league's top coach in 2007-08 and 2009-10, and becomes the first repeat winner since UC Santa Barbara's Mark French shared the award with Cal Poly's Faith Mimnaugh in 1999-00 and then won the honor outright in 2000-01. It is only the fifth time overall in Big West history that a coach has won the award in consecutive seasons.

Now a three-time All-Big West selection, Bertsch collected her second consecutive spot on the first team and became the third Aggie to earn at least two first-team nods in a career joining three-time honorees Paige Mintun (2009-11) and Sydnee Fipps (2013-15). The biomedical engineering major from Santa Rosa, Calif., led the Aggies at 19.8 ppg -- good for second in the Big West -- and shot .561 from the field -- good for third in the league -- while scoring in double figures in all 29 regular season contests, including a 34-point night at Cal State Fullerton on March 1 that ranks third on the school's all-time single-game list.

Bertsch ranks third on the school's all-time scoring list and is just 27 points away from tying the school's single-season scoring record held by Staci Stevens -- a mark that has stood since 1987-88 -- while her 573 points this season are the most by a junior, breaking Fipps' mark of 548 set in 2013-14. She ranks in the top 10 in the league in four different categories, including free throw percentage (4th, .777) and blocked shots (3rd, 1.7 bpg).

Gianotti, who ranks among the top 15 in the league in six different categories entering this week's tournament, earned her third career All-Big West honor with her second team award this season, finishing second on the team in scoring at 11.3 ppg (12th in the Big West) and leading the team in rebounding at 5.7 rpg (13th in the conference). No one has appeared in more career games as an Aggie, as the political science major from Myrtle Creek, Ore., established career records for both games played and consecutive games played with 125, having appeared in every contest for UC Davis since stepping foot on campus.

Gianotti, who tied a career high with 26 points in the regular season finale at UC Riverside, broke Samantha Meggison's previous record of 123 career games from 2008-12, and sailed past Gross' record of 119 consecutive appearances set from 1993-97.

Nagel, a psychology major from La Palma, Calif., earned her first career conference honor, finishing third on the team in scoring at 10.4 ppg, shooting 47 percent from the field and a team-best 43 percent from beyond the arc -- the latter ranking second in the Big West at the end of the regular season. Nagel finished in double figures 14 times, including six times in seven games twice this season, scoring a career-high 23 points at Seattle on Nov. 26.

After picking up a second-team award as a junior in 2017, Nafekh earned her second all-league honor in 2018, averaging 6.9 ppg and finishing second with 72 assists, shooting 42 percent from the field and just over 41 percent from beyond the arc. The managerial economics major finished with a season-high 18 points against UC Riverside on Jan. 11 and finished in double figures seven times.

One of five student-athletes selected to the all-freshman squad, Hall finished her first regular season at the Division I level averaging 6.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg while shooting 42 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. She reached double figures in the scoring column seven times, including a career-high 17 points at Long Beach State on Feb. 1 and a career-high 12 rebounds at home against UC Riverside on Jan. 11, while appearing in 28 of the team's 29 games.

With the top seed and a double-bye into the semifinals of this year's Big West Tournament, the Aggies will not play until Friday's first semifinal (March 9) at Noon against the lowest remaining seed at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. As the conference's regular season champion, UC Davis has also clinched an automatic berth into the Women's National Invitation Tournament for the second consecutive year, marking the sixth time in 11 Division I seasons that it will compete in the postseason.

First Team
Morgan Bertsch, Jr., F, UC Davis
Drew Edelman, Sr., F, UC Santa Barbara
Channon Fluker, Jr., C, CSUN
Morgan Green, Jr., G UC Irvine
Dynn Leaupepe, Sr., G, Cal Poly
Sarah Toeaina, Sr., G, Hawai'i

Second Team
Tessa Boagni, Sr., F, CSUN
Michelle Curry, Sr., G, UC Riverside
Pele Gianotti, Sr., F, UC Davis
Lauren Holt, Sr., G, UC Riverside
Rachel Nagel, Sr., G, UC Davis
Daeja Smith, Jr., C, Cal State Fullerton

Honorable Mention
Sarah Bates, Fr., G, UC Santa Barbara
Shanaijah Davison, Fr., G, Long Beach State
Naomi Hunt, Fr., F, Long Beach State
Lynn Leaupepe, Sr., G, Cal Poly
Dani Nafekh, Sr., G, UC Davis
Jordan Sanders, Fr., F, UC Irvine
Cecily Wilson, Sr., G, Long Beach State

All-Freshman Team
Sarah Bates, UC Santa Barbara
Sanaijah Davison, Long Beach State
Cierra Hall, UC Davis
Naomi Hunt, Long Beach State
Jordan Sanders, UC Irvine

Player of the Year: Channon Fluker, CSUN
Freshman of the Year: Jordan Sanders, UC Irvine
Coach of the Year: Jennifer Gross, UC Davis

Best Sixth Player: Ayzhiana Basallo, Cal Poly
Best Defensive Player: Channon Fluker, CSUN
Best Hustle Player: Dye Stahley, Cal Poly

Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley. The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal, and among the top 10 public universities nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation's best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.