It’s hard to understand how Morgan Bertsch could ever struggle with negative self talk. After all, what’s to be down about?
Bertsch, a 6-foot-4 junior on the undefeated UC Davis womens’ basketball team, is rewriting the Aggies’ record books while leading the team to a 9-0 record following Saturday’s 74-50 rout of St. Mary’s. Bertsch scored 23 points.
But Bertsch, coming off last year’s All-Big West Conference first team season, insists she hit some hurdles last season. Self doubt crept in.
How can that be? How does the player who started every game her sophomore season and 26 out of 33 contests in her redshirt freshman year, while becoming the Aggies’ leading scorer and second leading rebounder have self doubt? Bertsch was phenomenal in her sophomore campaign, becoming the school record holder for blocks in a season and climbing the ladder to become the school’s highest scoring sophomore ever.
Self doubt? Who’s buying what Bertsch is selling?
But she says there were times last season when she struggled, when a team seemed to know her game a little too well and where her tried and true moves were getting stopped. The voices in her head were telling her that conference foes were figuring out her game, that perhaps her stellar freshman campaign was because she was taking people by surprise.
“The struggle I had last year is they get to know you,” she said. “You can’t do the usual things you are used to doing. They have watched all your games, they have scouted. I hit a little wall during conference, it kind of alters your confidence a little bit. I didn’t know what my role was going to be if I couldn’t score all the time.”
Couldn’t score? Bertsch averaged nearly 16 points a game as a sophomore to lead the Aggies. She was the team’s second highest rebounder with more than five per game and was tied for second in steals. Blocks? Not even close. Her 57 on the season broke a record set in 2011.
And she runs up those numbers being on the floor fewer minutes than three out of the five starters.
Still, Bertsch said she feels like she must constantly improve her game. In the offseason she worked on her strength, worked on her outside shot, refined her dribbling skills. All this to quiet her own doubts.
“Positive self talk that a lot of people lack takes time to develop,” she said. “You just have to catch yourself in that moment.”
“Trust me, it’s been a journey. Last year I was really bad at it,” she said.
This year, she’s ready for the double- and triple-teams. This year she feels more composed under pressure.
“People are running for me, coming for me,” she said. “But if I can just hold my confidence and be collected?”
Something else might help too.
“If I could shoot the 3, that would make my life a lot easier,” she said, laughing.
“I’ve never been a 3-point shooter,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get there one day.”
Meantime, she is dropping in points from closer in, but generally at will.
Last month, Bertsch earned Big West Conference Player of the Week honors after she passed the 1,000 career point threshold, only the fourth Aggie in school history to do that as a junior.