Faith Mimnaugh and the rest of the Cal Poly women’s basketball coaching staff had an idea that the Mustangs would be matched with Cal when the WNIT postseason tournament draws were released Monday.
Still, after the Big West’s No. 1 seed was unceremoniously upset by No. 4 UC Davis in the conference tournament Saturday, Mimnaugh and Cal Poly weren’t exactly rushing to get back to the film room before the bracket was announced.
The 66-49 blowout loss was a hard one to get over, and the healing process started upon exiting the arena and carried through the rest of the weekend.
“When we came out of the Honda Center, the band was there, and they were clapping for us,” Mimnaugh said. “They played the fight song, the whole bit. It helped lift our spirits for sure, but it put it in perspective, too, that we’ve done some pretty cool things this year.”
Though Cal Poly (18-12) missed out on the Big West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Mustangs won their first-regular conference title, and by virtue of that finish earned a spot in the WNIT, their first postseason tournament berth in program history.
The latest accomplishment: Cal Poly will host the Golden Bears (17-15) at 7 p.m. at Mott Gym on Thursday, the second day of first-round WNIT games, after speculation was that the Mustangs would be on the road.
All 64 teams will play first-round games this week, and the tournament will progress with each round being hosted at home sites of participating schools, including the final.
“Every game that you get from here on out is just an opportunity,” Mimnaugh said. “There’s no pressure on us at all. There’s just an opportunity to play again and to represent Cal Poly in the best fashion that we can.”
Cal finished in sixth place in the Pac-10 with a 7-11 conference record during the regular season but advanced to the conference tournament semifinal last week, losing 63-50 to UCLA.
The winner will move on to face either Colorado or UC Riverside in the second round. The Highlanders are one of two Big West teams to receive at-large berths.
UC Santa Barbara, which tied Cal Poly for the regular-season conference title but lost at home to Pacific in the first round of the conference tournament, will play at USC on Thursday.
The WNIT awards an automatic berth to each of the nation’s 31 conferences. Spots go to the highest placer in the regular-season conference standings that does not advance to the NCAA Tournament. The 33 remaining at-large berths are doled out to teams with .500 or better records.