April 1, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - With the annual Spring Break road trip in the past, the UC Davis women's lacrosse team hits a critical point in the 2014 schedule: all six remaining games come against members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, starting with the upcoming weekend against first-year Colorado and perennial power Denver.
In their most recent action, the Aggies followed a dominating 13-2 victory at Detroit with a tough 13-12 loss to Michigan, another rookie program.
As it has all year, UC Davis showed its grit throughout the battle with the Wolverines. A 2-0 deficit in the first three minutes because a 5-4 lead late in the first half. UM leads of 8-5 and 11-8 both were erased. Meghan Jordan's goal with 14 seconds left in regulation ended what should have been an opportunity for Michigan to run out the clock. A Wolverine goal with 21 seconds remaining in the first overtime seemed to shut the door on any Aggie hopes for a win, but Mary Doyle won the next draw and went straight to the cage for the equalizer 14 ticks later, forcing the sudden-victory period.
In the end, however, UC Davis committed six turnovers in the overtime periods. The last of the six proved to be the most painful: after Rachael Mack's ground-ball pickup gave the Aggies a chance to snipe the victory, a miscommunication on a player substitution away from the ball resulted in one too many players across the restraining line. Michigan took over possession, and Anna Schueler scored the game-winner two minutes into the sudden-victory period.
"The best thing about our team is that we're resilient," said UC Davis head coach Kate Henwood. "Even though we turned it over, we kept getting it back. It was a back-and-forth battle with so many lead changes.
"But in sudden-death overtime, you don't second chances. We kept making mental errors, and we lacked the confidence to propel us to victory in those final minutes. Our players were playing with doubt and fear, and they were not focused. There are only so many second chances, and turning the ball over on an offsides call took the wind out of our sails."
The second-year mentor did notice some bright spots, and not just in the win over Detroit, when UC Davis surrendered its fewest number of goals in almost four years. For example, a point of emphasis heading into the road trip was the offensive transition. "It wasn't perfect but it was better than it had been. So we are making strides in the right direction," Henwood said.
A major focus, according to the coach, will be the play of the Aggie midfielders. This does not appear to manifest itself on the stat sheet, especially given the individual offensive output from junior Elizabeth Landry (29 goals) and senior Carly Voris (19 goals). Defensively, Doyle and Voris lead the team in steals with 12 and 15, respectively.
"Our middies do a great job on offense and on defense, which is always a struggle because they're the most tired players on the field," said Henwood. "Not being a liability on the offensive or defensive end is a huge part of the role. Where they're still not producing is in between the 30s. Their responsibility is moving the ball down the field."
The one statistical area that reveals room for improvement is the assist column. The Henwood attacking game resembles the fabled Princeton offense in basketball. Concepts like positioning, ball movement and making reads are eerily similar. In both sports, a high assists-to-goals ratio offers an indicator on how effectively the offensive engine is running. UC Davis went from 18 assists in its first 21 goals of the year (during the Virginia road trip) to 23 dimes on 85 goals since.
Henwood has an Xs-and-Os explanation for that discrepancy: "The assists are coming from the north-south areas of the field, from Landry and MJ [Jordan]. We're not getting east-west looks to the inside, which is where middies should be looking to be a threat.
"So I'm putting it on our midfielders to step it up a notch and to be all-around players. It's an honor to be a midfielder. They should be the most reliable players on the field. They're the glue for the team, and the team's success rests on how well they perform on the entire 120 yards of the field."
Like San Diego State did in 2012 and USC especially last season, Colorado has shown itself to be a formidable and dangerous opponent in its inaugural year in 2014. Despite a roster with just two non-freshmen, the Buffs enter the weekend with a 5-5 overall record and a 2-1 ledger against the MPSF, thanks in part to Friday's 19-5 throttling of Saint Mary's. Cali Castagnola and Amelia Brown each scored four goals while Marie Moore added three goals, eight draw controls and a pair of caused turnovers. Castagnola leads CU with 25 goals overall.
Denver (9-1, 3-0), the defending MPSF champion which advanced a round into last year's NCAA tournament, has received votes in the IWLCA poll every week after an upset loss at Louisville -- the Pioneers' lone loss of the year -- knocked them out of the Top 20. DU followed one-goal victories over Brown and George Washington with a 20-4 win over Saint Mary's. Junior Jill Remenapp leads the country with 31 assists while Meredith Harris has shot 30-for-48 (.625) to lead the Pioneers in both goals and percentage. Junior goalkeeper Hannah Hook, who won MPSF Defensive Player of the Week honors for her role in the 3-0 homestand, ranks fourth nationally with a .524 save percentage.
Again, the contents of the two Centennial State rosters are of minimal concern to Henwood, who looks more closely at her UC Davis players. "We have a couple things offensively and defensively to prepare for Colorado and Denver this week but primarily, our focus will be on us and on doing our jobs better," said Henwood, who hopes her team will respond after the Michigan heartbreaker.
"There's a point where you have to stop learning lessons and start putting it into action. It's upsetting to see these extremely capable, talented and hard-working young women doubt themselves. We work with them everyday on every aspect of their lives, on and off the field, at making good decisions. They represent this program so well and work so hard."
Friday's game against Colorado begins at 3 p.m., while Sunday's first draw against Denver is set for 1 p.m. Admission is free for home lacrosse games at Aggie Stadium.
QUICK STICKS: Meghan Jordan had three assists during the two games in Michigan, raising her career total to 48... Now ninth all-time at UC Davis, MJ needs three to tie Molly Lapolla (2007-10) for eighth, and five to catch former teammate Anna Geissbuhler for the No. 7 slot... Ellie Delich, who scored two goals in Thursday's win at UDM, owns a .722 shooting percentage (13-for-18)...The school record still belongs to Danner Doud-Martin, who hit 34 of 55 (.618) back in 1999... Delich needs a minimum of 20 goals scored to qualify for the record... Senior GK Jordan Majka posted six saves in the two Spring Break games, including three in the overtime periods... That raises her career total to 228, moving her into fourth in school history... Defensively, UC Davis held Detroit to .143 shooting (2-for-14), the lowest since a 21-0 shutout of Liberty on Mar. 22, 2010.