Cal says aloha to ranked competition

On the third day of the Waikiki Beach Mariott Rainbow Wahine Showdown, the Cal women’s basketball team will reunite with former head coach Joanne Boyle.

Only this year, Boyle won’t pace the length of Cal’s bench. She now presides at the helm of No. 22 Virginia, whom the Bears (2-1) will battle Sunday at 5 p.m.

The contest is the final leg of Cal’s three-day tournament in Oahu, Hawaii. The Bears open play against host Hawaii (1-3) at 7 p.m. on Friday and take on No. 24 Texas at 2 p.m. on Saturday before closing out the competition against their former leader.

Many players have expressed excitement at seeing Boyle, even if she will be on the opposite end of the sideline. Cal’s new head coach, Lindsay Gottlieb, has joked that she and Boyle will sit on the beach and sip piña coladas all weekend.

But in reality, the tilt with Virginia (4-0) will be a dogfight; in fact, each game this weekend will, as this is the Bears’ first serious test since its 73-70 season opener loss to No. 16 Rutgers two weeks ago.

“I never look past any team,” freshman guard Brittany Boyd said. “Virginia’s going to be a game, Texas is going to be a game and Hawaii’s going to be a good game. We got to expect the unexpected.”

The stakes this weekend are strikingly similar to those the Bears faced against the Scarlet Knights. Two of the three teams are ranked. All three games will take place in a foreign environment. And every squad will challenge Cal with a tough-to-break defense.

For the Bears, the biggest challenge of the tournament is its length — the three-game schedule, rather than the actual trip itself, is what concerns the team the most. Cal’s depth across the bench will obviously factor into how fresh the team will be by the third day.

That depth already came into play in the Bears’ first three games this season. The bench has scored 189 of Cal’s 334 points this season. With players such as freshmen Justine Hartman and Reshanda Gray and sophomore Afure Jemirigbe, the lineup experiences little drop off after substitutions.

No matter the lineup, in each game the Bears are prepared to meet a team with a penchant for zone defenses. Especially against big-conference schools such as Virginia and Texas (2-1), Cal needs to beat its opponents in transition and work the ball into the post.

Winning every tournament has been a goal for the team since the start of the season. A sweep of this three-game set in particular could lead to a top-25 ranking.

“There’s going to be good basketball, a great opportunity to do something with our team on a national stage,” Gottlieb said. “To be with each other, and be in Hawaii, you can’t ask for much more than that.”