Oct. 17, 2008
By Haley Oefinger
UC Davis Athletics Media Relations
Published Oct. 18 in Aggie Gameday
During its first season of NCAA Division I status, the UC Davis women's basketball team completed a successful campaign, finishing with an 18-10 overall record and a second-place standing in the Big West Conference. The 18 wins mark the most since the 2001-02 season.
Part of the Aggie's success is attributed to Haylee Donaghe, a 5-foot-10 wing, who led the Big West in steals at 2.8 per game, placed second on her team in scoring and made the All-Big West Conference second team. It is difficult to imagine the Aggies without Donaghe, who started every game last year. However, at one point, a recurring injury suggested that her career might end early.
During her senior year at Atascadero High School, Donaghe dislocated her shoulder, prematurely ending her season. Before her first year at UC Davis, Donaghe underwent surgery then rehabilated throughout her initial season. Then, after playing only five games as a redshirt freshman, she dislocated her shoulder a second time, terminating the rest of her season.
Donaghe endured a second surgery and began a gradual rehabilitation process while her team continued to practice and play games. "It was more mentally than physically challenging," Donaghe explained. "I was so lucky to have all the support from my teammates, coaches, and family."
Despite the frustration that accompanies an injury, Donaghe fought back, determined to recover. She spent six months at practice and at home rehabbing. Once she was strong enough, she began to re-familiarize herself with the game, retraining her instincts and her decision-making process. "It took a full year for her to get it back," said Coach Sandy Simpson. "She worked extremely hard to improve. Last season, she was back to the old Haylee."
Now that Donaghe has fully recovered, her appreciation for the game is stronger than ever. "She is continuing to improve. Most people don't realize how much they want to play until they can't," added Simpson. "She is a very bright, gregarious, passionate person, which makes her a natural leader. Her teammates are drawn to her."
"I was always hopeful to make a full recovery," Donaghe explained. "I was never pushed to start until I was ready. My team and coaches were an immediate support group."
Donaghe's family is particularly supportive. With her younger sister, Hannah, playing basketball at Stanford, Donaghe's parents make the four-hour drive to see their daughters play. ("And drive back for work the next morning," Donaghe described.) Last year, when the Aggies faced Stanford, her family and friends supported "wearing a Stanford hat and a Davis t-shirt." Donaghe recalled. The sisters enjoyed playing against each other. "It was like old times out in the driveway."
Off the court, Donaghe is a graduate student, studying exercise science. She completed her undergraduate experience last spring, earning an exercise biology degree. She is thinking about going to medical school after her graduate work is accomplished.
Donaghe's perseverance and hard work is inspirational to UC Davis student-athletes. Her passion for the game, her enormous support, and willpower to recover contributed to her success and ability to play today.
The Aggies will be challenged during their second year as a Division I team. Donaghe's exceptional defense, her ability to finish around the basket, and her leadership skills will help her team continue to be competitive in the Big West Conference.
The Aggie women's basketball season kicks off with home exhibition games against Australian Showtime (Nov. 6) and Sonoma State (Nov. 10)