Bertsch wasn’t recruited as much as she was discovered out of Santa Rosa High School.
She was long and lanky at 6-feet-4-inches. Her red face then was evidence of how much effort she put into crashing the boards, scoring inside and defending as a centerpiece to a playoff program.
The UCD coaching staff in 2014 was reviewing game film of a potential recruit playing against Santa Rosa when Bertsch caught their eye. They didn’t focus on her shot or tenacity. They saw her stride. Aggies coach Jennifer Gross wondered, “who is that gazelle?”
The UCD coaches scouted Bertsch in person. They were underwhelmed. Bertsch was battling a flu, but the potential was there. She was worth another look, and then, ultimately, a scholarship offer.
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“We were barely getting our (game) together,” Song told The Enterprise. “We love the matchup. We’re very comfortable playing there (at Maples Pavilion). We’ve played there almost every year. But they’re not to be taken lightly. They are a very good team. We’re ready. We’re super-excited to be playing in the tournament.”
Big West Conference Player of the Year Morgan Bertsch recalled when the cat got out of the bag:
“I had just gotten out of my ethics in general engineering final. I looked at my phone and it said, ‘Brackets got leaked, come to the coaches’ office.’ So, yeah, we had known for a while.”
“As you know, it’s been crazy and little bit of an anti-climactic day for us,” the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame guard told the throng. “Although this won’t be (us) sitting on the edge of our seats, awaiting our seed, I just wanted to thank … all of the amazing fans and community that are part of our family here at UC Davis.
“I know a lot of people were down in Anaheim — and whether you were there or here at Woodstock’s watching and supporting and believing in us — that entire game, even when things weren’t going our way, your energy, your positivity helped get (that comeback) done for us.
“I know our players said every score that we got during that run, they ran back on defense, feeling tired for a second. But then they looked up at our crowd — going crazy and standing on their feet — and (the players) said it willed them to get that next defensive stop.”
She also said she was “not excited” about playing the Aggies because their head coach, Jennifer Gross, and her staff were a huge help to the Stanford coaches several years ago when they were learning the Princeton offense, which UCD has used for many years. VanDerveer wanted to open up the offense after All-American Chiney Ogwumike left in 2014.
“I’ve been rooting for them all year,” VanDerveer said. “It’s hard to play someone you’re close to and want to win, too.” But she added, “It’s every woman for themselves.”