Head Coach Rick Todd preached that it would take time for his team to come together following two sub-par tournament finishes, as things finally started clicking for the Highlanders at the Bill Cullum Invitational, which took place from Oct.15-16. Todd, who is also a basketball fan, compared it to Thursday night’s Lakers game saying, “For instance last night, the Lakers game. Everyone thinks ‘oh LeBron is here, they’re going to win.’ Well, it takes time. He’s going to make those other guys play harder and it’s the same on our team.”
UCR was able to finish in sixth place out of 17 competing teams which is their best finish of the year. The Highlanders showcased their best performance of the year despite playing in 40 mile-per-hour winds.
Todd said that the wind forced his team to be more focused than they’ve been in past tournaments. “They were more target oriented than result oriented,” Todd explained. “When it’s perfect weather you kind of go through the motions. It was more mental preparation before each shot than anything physical.”
The Highlanders have played through harsh conditions in a couple tournaments now and both times they were able to perform at a higher level in those conditions. The previous tournament that UCR was forced to play in rough conditions was the Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational, where Todd said they were able to make up ground due to those conditions.
One player Todd noticed was especially dialed in was senior Michael Wong, who finished tied for 10th place and shot a score of 214 in the tournament. “After the second round he shot four under par and I asked him ‘how’d you play?’” Todd said. “He looked at me and says I really don’t know because I was so committed to each shot. He didn’t think about his score and that’s what you have to do.”
Wong wasn’t the only player who played well in Simi Valley as fellow senior Andrew Spillman finished tied for 17th place, finishing only two shots behind Wong. The team’s overall depth was on display as four out of their five players finished in the top 50 and every player finished less than five shots behind the teammate that finished ahead of them.
The Highlanders will participate in their final tournament of the fall season, the Pacific Invitational, on Thursday, Oct. 25.