April 9, 2014
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- For the second time on the 2014 schedule, UC Davis women's lacrosse takes on a pair of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foes in a three-day, two-game set. The first time was almost exactly a month ago, when the Aggies hit the road for games against USC and San Diego State within less than a 48-hour span.
This time, what lies ahead is a Sunday matchup at Oregon followed by a rematch of last year's season-ending upset, a Tuesday night tilt at Stanford on April 15.
The upcoming games arrive on the heels of a rollercoaster weekend in which UC Davis endured a tough 14-5 loss against Colorado on Friday before a promising showing against conference front-runner Denver. The Aggies held the Pioneers to just nine goals, matching DU's second-lowest for the year.
"It wasn't necessarily due to our defense," said UC Davis head coach Kate Henwood. "The defense played well, but it was more because we possessed the ball. We won more draws and ground balls, and we had fewer turnovers. That's something that the team acknowledged: having the ball longer minimizes the other team's opportunities. If Denver had the ball more, the score would have been a lot higher because they're a great team."
Indeed, UC Davis dominated on draw controls, winning 12 of 17. Junior Elizabeth Landry won four of those while sophomore Mary Doyle picked up another three. Midfielder Sara Quero won two in succession that helped the Aggies rally late in the second half. The 13 turnovers is UC Davis' lowest of the year except for the 12 at San Diego State in mid-March. In terms of possession in the attacking third, that part of the game is evident by the shooting margin: 22 to 16 in UC Davis' favor.
After Friday's 14-5 loss to Colorado, which Henwood described as her team's low point of the year, the latter two thirds of Sunday's battle with Denver serves as a springboard for the remaining schedule. "I think the second half [against Denver] was the best version of ourselves. If we can play that well and come together as a team like we did on Sunday, we should have a lot of success at the end of the year."
Despite the improved play against Denver, Henwood has muted satisfaction over the overall outcome. After all, she says, losing by such a slim margin means her team could have been in a position to win the game. In fact, UC Davis endured a few late breaks that could have narrowed the deficit to a single goal, at a time when the Aggie midfielders were largely dominating the draw. "Yes, I'm happy with the improvement that we've made. We can acknowledge that, but we'll celebrate it at the end of the year when we put it together and have some success," she said.
The nod to protecting the ball and keeping it out of the opponent's sticks will prove even more crucial during the next set. Oregon (7-4, 3-0) ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense with a 15.27 average. Stanford (9-2, 3-1) is 19th in the country, second in the MPSF at 13.36. The Ducks combined for a 35-14 margin in their two MSPF wins over California and Saint Mary's last weekend. The Cardinal dipped from No. 8 to No. 12 in Monday's national coaches' poll, thanks to a 13-12 upset against Denver (which moved up to No. 20).
Nonetheless, Henwood prefers not to have her team focus on the opponent, but rather to concentrate on playing Aggie lacrosse. This has been an ongoing process goal throughout the year, and will continue to stand as one during the season's final stretch. "The most important thing is teamwork and accountability," she said. "Everyone needs to do their job. When the wheels come off like they did on Friday, or you have a couple of losses at the middle of the season, it's easy to point fingers instead of looking at yourself. Everyone needs to look at themselves and look for ways to improve, yet stay together as a team. It's really important that we play as a team and have each other's backs. Twelve playing as one can be difficult to stop."
Sunday's game at Oregon begins at 1 p.m. First draw at Stanford on Tuesday is 7 p.m. Links to live streaming video will be available at www.ucdavisaggies.com.
QUICK STICKS: Junior Elizabeth Landry ranks 4th in the MPSF with 2.75 goals per game while her average of 1.00 assists per game ties teammate Meghan Jordan for 10th... Landry also paces the conference in shots (6.75) and sits 3rd in draw controls (4.08) and 5th in points (3.75)... With a 1-4 conference record, UC Davis shares seventh place in the MPSF with Cal... The top six teams advance to the MPSF Championship in Denver (May 1-4)...
Advance note: the upcoming April 18 home game against Fresno State has been designated as Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Day... The FOJ improves the quality of life for children and families battling pediatric brain tumors... The Aggie women's gymnastics team "adopted" a child in early February; the lacrosse team is on a wait list to do the same... For information on donating to the FOJ via the UC Davis women's lacrosse team, visit http://www.stayclassy.org/davis/events/uc-davis-foj-day/e30324.