The scrappy, self-coached Claremont Weasels women’s club basketball team suffered a gruesome mauling at the paws of the UCLA Bruins in their first game at Roberts Pavillion on Saturday, Oct. 28. Claremont’s grizzly defeat saw UCLA take home the victory 51-21.
The Weasels came out swinging, facing a physically imposing, more organized and resourced side in the Bruins, combatting UCLA’s play book and size with scrappy defense and high energy. Team co-captain and co-coach Alayan Nonhomme PO ’24 struck through UCLA’s backcourt in the opening minutes of the game, scoring a quick bucket and immediately running down the court, playing hard defense and earning a block on the other end.
The team’s other co-captain and co-coach Casey Donnelly PZ ’24 had nothing but praise for Nonhomme’s effort throughout the game.
“Alayan is so great,” Donnelly said. “She is never tired and she is always going to outlast everybody.”
The Weasels held their own against the Bruins, keeping them in check early on with the score reading 7-7 after 10 minutes of play. Nonhomme credited the team’s hustle stats for keeping the game tightly contested.
“Our defense in the first half was really good.” Nonhomme said. “We were crashing boards hard for second-chance points and getting back in transition and stopping plays.”
However, dynamic drives into the key from UCLA’s point guard and coordinated plays from the more experienced UCLA offense left the Weasels scrambling at times. UCLA’s attack brought the score to 14-7 in favor of the Bruins at the half.
At half time, the Weasels, who have been playing without a coach since the preseason, have been relying on Donnelly and Nonhomme to step up, taking the responsibility of building and calling plays. Donnelly spoke on striking a balance while coaching.
“Honestly, it is a really hard thing to separate your own individual emotions and keep everyone’s emotions at bay,” Donnelly said. “I think people do best when they’re given instructions about things they need to improve and honestly this team is so good at picking up what’s not working — it’s just a matter of us coming together and doing it.”
At the start of the second half, the Weasels’ spirits and energy seemed drained. The Bruins, taking advantage of their deeper and more experienced roster, started to pile on, creating a heavy point deficit that ballooned to 30-12.
Nonetheless, Stella Holt Dupey SC ’27 pushed hard, breaking a nine and a half minute long dry spell by breaking through the clogged paint, putting up a contested lay-up and earning and converting on an and-one.
“Stella really stood out to me,” Carolyn Lau PZ ’26 said. “She’s been aggressive in practice; she’s been really good at driving [and] shooting. I definitely saw that highlighted today.”
Holt Dupey’s highlight play reinvigorated the Weasels, helping them find some of the energy and defensive skill to box out harder on defense. Unfortunately for them, the score gap was too wide. The first game of the Weasels’ season came to a close with UCLA winning by 30 points. Nonetheless, Claremont remains hopeful and has high goals for the season.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Nonhomme said. “It’s a lot of buy-in from the team to stick around without a coach, first and foremost we build our community and we’ve bonded a lot. From August until now they have just been coming two times a week.”
With their full starting rotation of seniors last year graduating and their coach of three years departing before this season, the Weasels are in a rebuilding period. As leaders of this new era, Nonhomme and Donnelly are looking to construct a new team culture.
The Weasels, following in the tradition that Nonhomme calls the “Weasel Way”, are building out their team, using their resources, however limited they are. For example, many of the plays that the team ran and are training on for the upcoming tournament come from the playbook of Holt Dupey’s dad, who coaches for a high school team.
To get ready for their next game, Nonhomme is hoping Claremont can build off of what they did well against UCLA.
“It was a litmus test for us,” Nonhomme said. “I’m going to take the [positives from the] first half and continue to work on the strengths we saw.”
Donnely agrees, but believes a huge step in improving would be finding a coach.
“If anyone would love to be our coach, we will interview you,” Donnely said. “Take us out for coffee and we’ll interview you, please, please.”
The Weasels will continue to develop their on-court strategy and cohesion in preparation for a tournament hosted by UCLA on Nov. 11 and 12.