The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The College of San Mateo women’s basketball team hasn’t played a rigorous preseason schedule thus far.
The Bulldogs have played only five games through the first two months of the season, but there is an added degree of difficulty of having played all on the road to open the 2018-19 campaign.
CSM was scheduled to play its first home game by hosting No. 6 Merced. But that game was initially postponed and then canceled because of the air quality issues that plagued the Bay Area last month.
After going 18 days between a 76-65 loss to Chabot Nov. 10 and a 94-80 loss to Fresno Nov. 29, the Bulldogs are coming off a 15-day layoff when they finally get back on the court Friday night.
The good news is, the Bulldogs will play on their home floor for the first time this season when CSM (1-4) hosts Folsom Lake (2-4) at 7 p.m. in the nightcap of the first round of the Tom Martinez Invitational tournament.
The CSM-Folsom Lake is the final matchup of a four-game first round. College of the Sequoias (10-2), the third-ranked team in the state, opens the tournament against Santa Monica (5-7) at 1 p.m., Shasta (5-5) and Merritt-Oakland (2-8) tip off at 3 p.m. while Butte (5-5) Reedley (5-6) go at it at 5 p.m.
The tournament continues Saturday, using the same time schedule as Friday, with the championship game slated for 3 p.m. Sunday.
“[The team is] super excited to finally be at home. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, over a month,” said CSM head coach Michelle Warner. “That’s why I started this tournament 18 years ago was because we didn’t have any home games in the preseason. … Everyone wants to be in tournaments (early in the preseason), so it’s hard to find single games.
“It should be a really good tournament.”
Despite being mired in a four-game slide — with three of the defeats coming against teams ranked in the top-15 in Northern California — there have been some positives for the Bulldogs. They are scoring an average of 72 points per game, which ranks them in the top-20 in the state.
Megan Jajeh, a sophomore guard out of Mercy-San Francisco, is averaging 10 points per game while shooting just 41 percent from behind the arc (9 for 22). Sophomore Nandi Eskridge, a 5-8 forward from Oceana, is averaging 9.4 points per game in just under 12 minutes a game and leads the Bulldogs in rebounding with nearly six a game.
Victoria Mataele, a 6-foot freshman center from Carlmont, has been very efficient so far this season. She plays under eight minutes a game, but is averaging nearly 10 points.
“I’m very encouraged,” Warner said. “We have a lot of people who can score. We can score from many different positions.”
The Bulldogs, however, have had their struggles on defense. While scoring 72 points per game is good, allowing nearly 80 to the opposition is not. Warner said the Bulldogs simply have to be aggressive in wanting to be good defensively and she said that begins with blocking out after shots.
“You can imagine what we’ve worked on the last two weeks,” Warner said. “Just put the balls away and just work on defense.”
Warner hasn’t needed heavy minutes for any of her players as the Bulldogs, for once, have some depth — at least early in the season. All 10 players currently on the roster are logging at least five minutes per game, with only Ava Agustin, Kaitlyn Tamondong and Eskridge playing 11 minutes per game.
The time off was especially beneficial for Agustin, a freshman point guard out of James Logan-Union City High School. She banged up her ankle in a game at the Shasta tournament. She played on it the next day and then had it swell up. The two weeks have allowed Agustin to get better as she returned to practice this week.
Despite going 10 deep, the Bulldogs are only a tweak or two away from a short bench.
“Let’s, please, knock on wood (for our health),” Warner said.