Missouri State Bears (0-0)
UC Davis Aggies (0-0)
Friday, Aug. 30 - 5 p.m.
Aggie Stadium (10,029) - Davis, Calif.
Live Stats: ucdavisaggies.com
In-game Twitter Updates: @UCDavisInGame
DAVIS, Calif. - In addition to serving as this season's opening game, Friday's matchup against the Missouri State Bears will also mark a new beginning for UC Davis field hockey. For nine newcomers and the entire coaching staff, that game cannot arrive fast enough.
"In our exhibition games it was exciting to finally face another team and compete against someone besides ourselves," said freshman forward Agustina Singh.
Joining a team that lost 10 letterwinners and all but two starters, Singh and her teammates have experienced many intense practices throughout the weeks leading up to Friday's opener in an attempt to secure a coveted starting spot.
"Bringing in a group of freshman that is nearly a third of the roster can be daunting, especially for a team that is experiencing a change in system and formations," said interim head coach Austin Pile. "The returning players have been successful in mentoring the new players, teaching them how things operate off the field so when they step onto the field, they understand what is taking place around them.
"Our team arrived in the best shape that I've seen since I have been here (Austin is entering his fourth season at UC Davis, his first at the helm of the program), which means that we did not need to waste practices on improving the players' fitness. We have been maximizing our time on the field, and our classroom sessions, teaching the players what they need to know in order to help the team succeed."
Forwards Cloey LemMon
and Danielle Herrington
are part of a returning unit that has been comfortable with offering advice and additional instruction to help the team develop chemistry off the field, and learn concepts on it.
Since day one, Pile has worked closely with his upperclassmen; of the 24 student-athletes on roster, 17 are either freshmen or sophomores.
"I've been impressed with the energy, effort and attitude of the team. Everyone realizes that I will play the best players each and every game. Every practice provides another opportunity to grow and develop. The players have done a great job receiving instruction from the coaching staff and working hard in practice."
Unique to this year's team is the depth that is provided at the forward position, providing the Aggies a range of scoring options.
In addition to LemMon, the team's leading scorer with eight goals and one of 11 players to receive a starting nod in all 20 games played last season, Megan Doles, Singh, Kayla Wigney, Danielle Koehne, Stephie Sabraw and Sophie Lisaius provide Pile with an extensive amount of talent to draw from.
"I've seen the forwards improve tremendously in practice since we've started, not only individually, but as an entire unit," said Pile.
Northern Pacific conference foes should acquaint themselves with UC Davis' forwards since each, with the exception of Lisaius and LemMon, is an underclassman.
Even though the season is just a few weeks old, a few midfielders have already stood out for the way they have carried themselves in the classroom, and at practice.
"She's become more and more of a leader as the preseason has progressed," said Pile regarding sophomore Jamie Garcia.
A force on the field, she scored six goals, tallied a team-high eight assists and took 43 shots last season, Garcia is now looking to further develop her role on the team as her career continues at UC Davis.
"Megan Reardon, coming into the season as one of the team's captains, looks at this season as an opportunity to shine, both as a player and a leader on and off the field. I can see that Emily Costa has invested a large amount of time in the offseason to become a better player - that is evident during practice. Her skill set and confidence has been fantastic."
Leading UC Davis' backline so far this season is a face that is familiar to the program throughout the last two seasons.
"Mattie Maloney has been a force on defense. Communication, especially throughout the entire line, is critical; she's asked the right questions to the coaching staff and has been a tremendous influence on the team's defense."
Even the Aggies' goalkeeping situation has been too close to call, and that's with two practice games under everyone's belt after facing Cal and Pacific last week in exhibition contests.
"I tell both of my goalkeepers (Herrington and Erica Cohen) the same thing I tell the rest of the team since the very first meeting: `every practice is a competition and a tryout for the next game.'
Erica and Danielle (Herrington) have done a great job challenging one another. I feel confident with either one; that is a great issue as a coach to have - two solid options in goal."
Since being named interim head coach, Pile has invested many hours accomplishing the numerous tasks associated with running an athletics program.
"I have hit the ground running since day one," said Pile. "Once I hired my staff, I was able to start focusing on in-game strategies and tactics.
"These last two months have just flown by."
Also joining Pile on the sidelines in their first season in their respective positions are assistant coaches Mary Kathryn Nielsen and Whit Ryan.
"Both individuals have been involved with the sport for most of their lives and bring a tremendous amount of experience with them to Davis," said Pile regarding his new staff.
Nielsen primarily works with the Aggies' midfielders, Ryan has focused his efforts and instruction with the team's goalkeepers.
"Both `keepers bring a lot of positive attributes with them to the field since practices began," said Ryan. "It's been an intense battle to see who will earn the starting spot."
"I want to focus, at first, on stick angle and reception, foot angles and scanning the field. These are things the average player may not invest as much time on, but are critical for achieving success," said Nielsen before stepping on Aggie Stadium's turf in her new role for the first time.
UC Davis will host the first of four games at Aggie Stadium on Friday, Aug. 30, in a 5 p.m. contest against Missouri State. Other home games include matchups against NorPac rivals Stanford (Oct. 6), Cal (Oct. 13) and Pacific (Nov. 1).
The Aggies will also serve as the designated home team in another two games that will take place at Maxwell Family Field, on Cal's campus, in Berkeley, Calif. In those "home" games, UC Davis will face Liberty (Sept. 6) and Dartmouth (Sept. 8).
Admission is free for all UC Davis field hockey events.