The CSU Monterey Bay women’s basketball team celebrates its California Collegiate Athletic Association tournament championship after a March 3 victory over CSU Los Angeles. Coach Renee Jimenez is at far left, and CSUMB Athletic Director Vince Otoupal is at far right.

‘A well-oiled machine’

By Scott Faust

With a CCAA tournament championship in hand and a strong corps of returning seniors, CSU Monterey Bay women’s basketball coach Renee Jimenez has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about next year.

But she sees an even bigger picture, an arc of progress for a program – indeed for all of Otter athletics – that has built a tradition of winning on hard-earned pride.

“The biggest thing was changing the culture to ‘it’s not OK to lose,’” said Jimenez, who completed her fourth season with an injury-plagued 21-9 record, a top-25 Division II ranking and a first-round loss in the NCAA West Regional tournament.

The team also had its highest-ever combined GPA – over 3.0.

“We expect to win every game,” Jimenez said. “We expect to win in the classroom, and we expect to win in the community.”

She credits next year’s seniors with doing the “hard work” to establish that culture.

“We’re starting to be a well-oiled machine, where those older guys are starting to run this program for us, which is really nice as a coach,” Jimenez said.

Five of the recruits who will help keep that machine going were in the Otters’ “Kelp Bed” when CSUMB defeated CSU East Bay in the first round of the CCAA tournament , which they went on to win March 3 with a buzzer-beater against CSU Los Angeles.

The Feb. 28 sellout crowd of student “Blue Crue” boosters made quite an impression on the recruits, Jimenez said.

Success is fostering success.

“More coaches are wanting to send their kids to us,” she said. “I think that’s really a testament to what our players have done, as well as to the strong momentum of our entire athletic department.”