Russ Davis was prepared for the worst when he started his first season as women's basketball coach at Southern California College.
After all, as an assistant he had experienced the excruciating 10-20 season in 1995-96 and was getting more bad news weekly this fall. A brief rundown:
* Heather Woodruff, one of the best post players in the Golden State Athletic Conference, left school.
* Alisha Blomker, a two-year starter at point guard, suffered a season-ending broken leg in the first practice in September.
* A community college transfer expected to share time at the point with Blomker left the team.
Golden State Athletic Conference coaches noticed the trend and picked the Vanguards to finish sixth--second-to-last in the conference.
Even Davis figured his team might have a rough time.
But the SCC players had other ideas. By defeating Patten, 72-34, Saturday at the Cal Baptist tournament, the Vanguards extended their winning streak to nine games and raised their record to 11-2.
Davis said one of the victories stands out especially, a 44-41 win over NCAA Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, which beat the Vanguards by 40 points last season.
"This team just plays with a lot of heart," Davis said. "They're not the most talented group, but they don't care about that. They just go out and play."
Junior forward Elaine Whittemore is leading a balanced attack, averaging 14 points and nine rebounds. Whittemore had 23 points and 17 rebounds in a 69-64 overtime victory over Lee (Tenn.).
Carrie Burt, a senior from Saddleback College and Mission Viejo High, has taken over as the point guard and is averaging more than six assists a game.
Davis said the players were ecstatic on the drive home from Riverside. "After we won Saturday," Davis said, "they kept saying, "We're 11-2 and that's unbelievable.' They kept saying that all the way home."
The winning streak--thought to be a school record for women's basketball--ended Monday with a 50-45 loss to Oklahoma City University. The Vanguards' record could be even better--their two losses previous to Monday's were both overtime games in which SCC was leading late, only to be tied on late three-pointers.
Now Davis needs to guard his team against overconfidence, because the Vanguards start conference play Tuesday against Azusa Pacific, which is expected to be among the top teams in a tough conference.
"I'm trying to keep it in perspective," Davis said. "We realize that every night is a war in our league."
Even so, he admits the nonconference success has been sweet.
"We're pretty happy with the way we were playing for a while considering we're not supposed to be very good," Davis said. "I guess you can't always believe what people tell you."