Aggie LAX kicks off 2018 season against Cal

Feb. 6, 2018

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DAVIS, Calif. – The start of a new sports season always introduces a mixture of new and familiar faces, but the UC Davis women’s lacrosse program had a little bit of both with the arrival of head coach Suzanne Isidor last fall. The former Penn State standout certainly knew the Aggies during her previous tenure with the Davis Lacrosse Association and Tenacity Lacrosse Club.

And while that familiarity did ease Isidor’s transition to the helm, the entire fall remained a crash course in building team chemistry and getting to know her players. The relatively short January preseason schedule saw a greater focus on the actual Xs and Os of the game. With the 2018 season launching in Friday’s home game with former leaguemate California, Isidor could not be more excited to march out onto the Aggie Stadium turf with her squad.

“It has been a pleasure watching them grow as a team from September until now,” Isidor said. “I’ve found them to be extremely coachable. We can put in something new, and they buy in right away. And it doesn’t happen right away, they keep working until it does happen.”

Aiding this learning curve is a relatively experienced team, especially on the offensive side of the field. The roster may show 18 freshmen and sophomores with only six seniors, but several of the second-year players saw considerable playing time as rookies in 2017. 

Among the attackers, junior Shannon Cross started all 32 games in her first two years, netting 32 goals last season. Sophomore Amanda Outcalt led the Aggies with 18 assists, and earned Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Rookie of the Week honors in March. Sophomore Sorana Larson (7 goals, 24 draw controls) is primed to enjoy a breakout season in 2018, while Shannon Geary (sixth in the MPSF with 52 draw controls) leads a senior attacking trio along with Carolina Tweedy and Kelly Chuck.

The Aggie midfield has the two All-MPSF honorees from last season in junior Taylor Cuenin and senior Kelsey DeJesus. Cuenin, a first-team selection, ranked second nationally in caused turnovers while leading the team in goals (42), total points (53) and ground balls (52). DeJesus garnered second-team honors in 2017, thanks in part to 21 goals and 35 steals. Another senior, Kate Fellner, had a breakthrough 2017: 16 goals, 15 assists, 24 ground balls and 22 draw controls.

According to Isidor, DeJesus and Fellner each add an element that does not show up on the stat sheet. “Fellner and DJ provide the senior leadership out there. DJ provides the calmness and the consistency. She’s a great leader by example. Fellner provides the fire and the spark. If you need the ball or the goal, Fellner is going to go get it.”

Sophomores Kate Graham (13 goals, 16 assists) and Maddie Myers (6 goals) saw significant action last year, and look to make an even bigger impact in 2018. The midfield also features impact freshmen Mar Alvear and Autumn Mannsfeld. Both are Northern California products: Alvear earned league MVP honors for Bishop O’Dowd, while Mannsfeld garnered back-to-back All-Sacramento Valley Conference honors at Granite Bay High.

In contrast to the attack and midfield, the defensive unit took the brunt of last year’s graduation due to the departure of two defenders (Tess Kevorkian and Pauline Kaplan) plus a starting goalie (Lauren Ali). Furthermore, injuries have short-handed the low defense early on. 

Still, Isidor has plenty to work with in the backfield. Anna Belenis and Natalie Garces started all 17 games as a freshman and sophomore, respectively, in 2017. They totaled 55 ground balls between them last year. Addie Dearden appeared in six games as a reserve in 2017 but enjoyed a strong fall and preseason to earn a starting role. Bolstering this crew is 2016 prep All-American Ally Deremer, who Isidor describes as “a freshman who doesn’t play like one.”

“We’re very young in the defensive end, but we’re also very athletic. That’s a unit that will be fun to watch,” says Isidor.

That defensive unit will support the goalkeeping tandem of junior Grace Richards and freshman Taylor Mathieson. Richards arrived at UC Davis as an attacker, but moved to goalkeeper in 2017 to serve as a backup for Ali. She made 27 saves with 35 goals against for a .435 average, and even made one start. Mathieson hails from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, where she was an all-state honorable mention with a career .538 average.

“They work extremely well together and I do see both of them getting playing time,” said Isidor. “They have different styles and personalities, but they complement each other and support each other so well. Emi [Smith] is a great goalie coach, and she has great goalies to work with. It has really been fun to watch. They’re a family and a unit.”

In fact, that “family and unit” culture is what Isidor values most from her team and what she hopes to see in Friday’s season opener. “We work on team defense and team attacking. Everything we do is focused on doing it as a unit. In crunch time, if things become too individual, we’ll fall apart. Staying as a unit will be our focus.

“I want to put into play what we’ve focused on practice, to come out with the confidence that they can handle different situations. It’s about being in it mentally from start to finish and having each other’s backs.”

Friday’s game begins at 5 p.m. at Aggie Stadium.

QUICK STICKS: Live video of all home UC Davis women’s lacrosse games will be available on the team’s Facebook page, while live stats are available via StatBroadcast... Links for each can be found above... Isidor’s coaching staff consists of third-year assistant Ashley Johnson, second-year goalies mentor Emi Smith, and new volunteer assistant Frank Resetarits... Junior Taylor Cuenin already ranks t5th in school history in career caused turnovers, mostly due to the school-reord 51 she notched in 2017... She needs two more to match Elizabeth Landry (2012-15) for fourth, and 15 to surpass Molly Peterson (2007-10) for third... Also challenging a school career list is Shannon Geary, who needs 30 draw controls to move past Katie McMahon (2004-08) for fifth.

ABOUT UC DAVIS: Providing a small-town community feel while providing a world-class academic experience, UC Davis is home to more than 37,000 students and centrally located between San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and the Napa Valley. The No. 6-ranked public university in the nation according to the Wall Street Journal, and among the top 10 public universities nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report, UC Davis offers nearly 100 graduate programs and more than 100 academic majors across four colleges and six professional schools, ranking among the world and nation’s best in numerous disciplines, including veterinary science, agriculture, and plant and animal programs.

DON’T MISS OUT!: Season and single-game tickets for all UC Davis winter sports are now on sale by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at (530) 752-AGS1 or by visiting us online at

SAAC COIN DRIVE: Support the UC Davis Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Yolo County SPCA during the month of February as the Aggies hold their 11th annual coin drive at all home events. For the fourth year in a row, Big West Conference institutions will donate 100 percent of the funds raised to their designated charities, with the top three fundraising SAAC’s receiving a cash prize toward their SAAC budget. Over the last 10 years, conference members have combined to raise nearly $197,000.