The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.

CSM’s Nicole McDonald looks on as teammate Vanessa Castillo and a San Francisco player dive for a loose ball

CSM’s Nicole McDonald looks on as teammate Vanessa Castillo and a San Francisco player dive for a loose ball during the Bulldogs’ 77-61 win last Friday. Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal

The College of San Mateo women’s basketball team used a 40-14 run to beat City College of San Francisco 77-61 last Friday night to not only sweep the season series from the Rams, but also to run its Coast Conference-leading record to 5-1 on the season.

How did the Bulldogs celebrate? By having a brutal Saturday practice.

“Saturday’s workout was more intense than practices should be,” said point guard Vanessa Castillo.

“I’m still sore,” said forward Nicole McDonald.

As grueling as the practice was, however, it’s that kind of dedication that has the Bulldogs in first place in the Coast Conference-North and a No. 8 ranking in Northern California.

“[The players were] the ones who said we needed some Saturdays (for practice). We decided Saturdays can be for film and lifting,” said CSM coach Michelle Warner. “This group is willing to put in extra (time), to put in the work it takes to do these things (contend for a conference title).”

That Saturday practice was also to turn the page from San Francisco and begin looking forward to this week. Wednesday, the Bulldogs faced a Las Positas-Livermore squad that entered the game winless in conference play. But it is also a team that took the Bulldogs to overtime the first time the two teams met. Friday, CSM takes on the only team that has beaten it in Coast Conference play — Foothill College.

There was little drama, however, as the Bulldogs cruised to a 75-51 win in Livermore.

While Friday’s game is a showdown for first place, the Bulldogs had not even began thinking about the Owls, who are ranked No. 1 in Northern California.

“We kind of overlooked Las Positas (the first time),” McDonald said.

Added Castillo: “We were so excited to play Foothill (last time) and we had just beaten City. We overlooked Las Positas.”

In the past, the Bulldogs would look forward to playing a rival or playing a big, important game, only to stumble against the team at hand. Now, opponents are basically nameless and faceless. They now look at opponents and what problems they present on the court, not on the name on the front of the jersey.

“I’ve told them (the goal of) each game is to go out and do the best you can that game,” Warner said. “All year, success is knowing you did your best.”

Said Castillo: “We focus more on our team.”