March 13, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. -
Not even 24 hours after pulling away to a 15-7 win over Robert Morris, the undefeated UC Davis women's lacrosse team packed its bags and headed for Southern California for two key Mountain Pacific Sports Federation games. The Aggies face USC for a 4 p.m. contest on Friday, then continue south to San Diego State for a Sunday 1 p.m. matchup.
UC Davis improved to 5-0 in its most recent homestand, rallying back against California for its first MPSF victory on Saturday, pulling off an overtime win over Siena on Monday, then handing RMU its first loss of the year in Wednesday afternoon's contest. The upcoming weekend holds the fourth and fifth games in a nine-day span for the Aggies, who are off to their hottest start since 2000.
According to second-year head coach Kate Henwood, the 5-0 start is exactly that -- a start. "I couldn't be happier with the results, the outcomes, but I think we have more work to do in terms of fixing things on the field. We've talked to the team about not getting blinded by the `W's.' We've got a lot of work to do, and Friday will be our toughest game yet."
Indeed, USC hosts UC Davis amidst a six-game homestand that opened with a promising showing. The second-year Women of Troy held a 5-3 lead against then-No. 7 Boston College, and trailed by just two goals midway through the second half before falling by a 13-10 final. USC, chosen third in the MPSF preseason poll, is led offensively by freshman Alex Moore and sophomore Caroline Cordrey with nine goals each.
Sunday brings another formidable conference foe who is off to a strong start. San Diego State won its first four games out of the gate, taking down Davidson and Winthrop on a Carolina road trip nearly a month ago, then snaring MPSF victories over Cal and Saint Mary's two weeks later. The Aztecs' only loss comes at the hands of No. 7 Boston College on March 8. Senior Meris Walsh paces SDSU with 15 goals, junior Lauren Maack has 11 goals with five assists, and junior Christina Ricciardulli boasts 23 draw controls.
Regardless of the opponent, Coach Henwood has been satisfied with the progress her team has made in its first five games. "We're making mistakes, which is fine at this time of year, but we're making up for them," she said, following the RMU win. "If we turn it over, we get it back. If we miss a shot, we make the next one. We're making a lot of adjustments on the field, and learning how to make them during play, or in timeouts, or at halftime.
"The bottom line is that we've learned a lot of valuable lessons so far this season. Every game has taught us something different. We've learned from come from behind after being down by a four-goal deficit. We've learned how to win in overtime. We've learned how to get a lead and protect it. We've played at home and on the road, night and day. So I feel prepared."
UC Davis has enjoyed considerable production from the trio of junior Elizabeth Landry, senior Carly Voris and freshman Melissa Kellan in the early going. Landry, who Henwood likes to call her team's "quarterback," scored four goals in each of the three home wins. Voris responded from a relatively quiet output against Cal and Siena with a career-high six goals against Robert Morris on Wednesday.
Kellan, who opened the year with 10 goals in front of home-state crowds at George Mason and Old Dominion, added another three goals this week. Junior Meghan Jordan has tallied eight assists during the first five games, matching Landry for the team lead.
Credit the Aggie defense for its part in the 5-0 start. Junior goalkeeper Kai Murphy held the national lead in saves through Monday, while the team's stingy 7.0 goals against per game sat 10th. UC Davis has enjoyed contributions from its usual suspects -- third-year starter Allie Lehner (12 ground balls, three caused turnovers) anchors the low defense while midfielders Mary Doyle (team-high eight CTs, 15 ground balls, 10 draw controls) and Sara Quero (seven GBs, three steals) continue to frustrate opposing teams.
However, some new faces have risen to the occasion in the 2014 early going. Redshirt junior Rachael Mack sat out the entire 2013 season due to injury, and played only sparingly in her first two years. This year, she has made three starts and has provided solid protection around the fan. Freshmen Tess Kevorkian and Eliza Marcus have also come up with key stops and/or timely steals.
Overall, this defensive corps surrendered just two goals in Wednesday's second half to a RMU team that had averaged 15.8 per game on offensive entering the contest, helping the Aggies pull away from a tight first-half battle.
Friday's game will be shown live on Pac-12 Video at http://pac-12.com/videos/university-southern-california. San Diego State streams home games through its own UStream channel at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/goaztecslacrosse.
QUICK STICKS: UC Davis has pole-vaulted its way to No. 6 on LaxPower.com's RPI... Note that this varies signficantly from that site's Computer Rating (similar to the Sagarin) of No. 53, since RPI only considers opponent W-L and opponent's opponent W-L, but does not factor in strength of schedule... Nevertheless, this is the highest by the Aggie program at any point in its Division I existence... The 5-0 start represents the longest win streak since taking eight straight in 2011... UC Davis went 10-5 that year... The program's best start belongs to the 2000 team, which won its first 11 en route to a 15-2 season.
Junior Meghan Jordan has entered the school's all-time top 10 in career assists with 44... She needs three to pass Megan O'Connor (2004-07) for ninth... O'Connor will likely get displaced on another list: with 21 draw controls, Elizabeth Landry brings her career total to 154, just nine behind the 2007 All-MPSF honoree for No. 2 in Aggie history.
Fans of Aggie lacrosse, particularly families of the 10 non-Californian players, have been able to follow an improved live video stream of home games... KDVS radio's David "DK" Kim teamed up with former player Colleen McGee for commentary on two of the three broadcasts while AggieTV's Arniel Mirasol has provided the video... Replays of all three games are available on the AggieTV YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/asucd)... Two families who will not have to venture far this weekend are that of Carly Voris, who grew up about 17 miles north of the SDSU; and Lauren Nardi, whose home in El Cajon is nearly a straight shot due east on Interstate 8... Incidentally, Nardi's parents Donna and Michael will have an added interest in the team's March 22 home game: both are 1981 grads of Towson.