Two matches into the season, the women’s basketball team stands undefeated. Senior co-captain Cydni Matsuoka has played a large role in the team’s success for three years. Both Women’s Division III News and DIIIhoops.com named her Fourth Team All-American, while the Liberty League has already coined her Player of the Year. In addition to this, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association has named her Division III All-American. Just this year alone, she also earned Four Liberty League Honor Roll titles, three Liberty League Performer of the Week titles, Eastern College Athletic Conference Upstate DIII Player of the Year, Liberty League All-Academic Team and Liberty League All-League First Team.
The All-American also had her jersey hung in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Matsuoka wrote, “Both being an All-American and having my jersey hung in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame are honors that I do not take for granted. Ever since day one, I have challenged myself to become the best player I can be regardless of other’s expectations for me.” She continued, “But to get recognition from some of the highest organizations in women’s basketball leaves me speechless.”
Matsuoka began playing basketball in the first grade, learning skills from her grandfather. “My grandfather was a junior high school basketball coach,” she explained, “[he] would teach me how to shoot on a mini playmate basketball hoop.” She spent elementary and middle school working for the goal of reaching her high school varsity team. After making the team, she also made the Delta Valley Conference First Team her sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
She was a Sacramento Bee Newspaper All-Metro Honorable Mention both her junior and senior years. “Once I did that, I realized I needed a new goal. I started playing in out-of-state AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] recruiting tournaments my freshman year in order to have a shot at playing in college,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “And then I chose Vassar because I was recruited by Coach Brown and the campus was absolutely gorgeous and the academic reputation was top notch.” Despite her achievements, other schools passed her over. “Coming out of high school, I was turned down by several coaches during the recruiting process for either being too small for a shooting guard or not athletic enough as point guard. I think more than anything I wanted to prove to myself that I could be an impact player at the college level.”
Now that she is a senior co-captain, Matsuoka fully understands that many are depending on her, including herself. “I definitely feel pressure to live up to the high expectations people have,” she wrote. “I am probably my own worst critic but I have gotten better at not beating myself up over losses or bad games.” Matsuoka also realizes that the women’s basketball team at Vassar is a team to watch. “The intensity level makes every game feel as if it were a championship game,” she wrote.
Fellow senior Hannah Senftleber touched upon Matsuoka’s dedication to the team. “[She] is not only my basketball teammate, but is also one of my best friends here at Vassar. We both have been here while watching this basketball program go from being ranked 7th in the preseason poll to being a consistent contender every single season,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “Her commitment to the team is unmatched and she would do anything that would help the success of the team.”
The team only has eight players, and their dynamic is important to Matsuoka. “Our team is coming together very nicely. Having a smaller team has meant this season has brought its challenges, but every single player has done a tremendous job thus far expanding their role and stepping up,” Matsuoka explained. “Even though we are 4-0, I know we have a lot of work ahead to prepare for league play.” Matsuoka continued, “The beauty of a small team is that we rely on each other much more, making our team chemistry stronger than ever.” She continued, “Personally, I worked hard in the offseason to improve some of my weaknesses and I need to trust that it will pay off in the end. Three of the teams left in our preseason schedule are Top 25 teams and so I know it is imperative I sharpen up on my game and cut down on the turnovers.”
Matsuoka has always had a propensity for success and passion for the game. When asked about Matsuoka as a player, Senftleber raved about her game. “I have been playing alongside Cydni for the past 4 years, and every year she always comes back better than before. Her ability to run the point guard on our team and be such an offensive threat is uncanny. She makes everyone around her a better player. She makes the game of basketball, which is hard for most, look extraordinary easy.”