Jan. 21, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - The buzzword for the first few weeks of the UC Davis women's water polo season has been "adjustment," both from a personnel standpoint and in making the transition from preseason to playing mode. A very respectable showing against No. 4 California in Saturday's opener gives head coach Jamey Wright a number of positives as his team prepares for its next weekend.
The Aggies return to action in a Saturday road doubleheader, taking on the Olympic Club in a noon exhibition before facing host Sonoma State at 3 p.m.
"After watching the film, I saw a lot of things that I was happier with than I was after the game," said Wright of Saturday's loss to the Golden Bears. "There were a lot of bright spots for us. We got the ball into two meters and pounded it inside, we drew some exclusions, we scored two goals out of set."
Among the highlights, according to Wright, was the return of redshirt sophomore Allyson Hansen. In her first game after sitting out a year due to a knee injury, Hansen converted a 6-on-5 goal, won two sprints, drew five kickouts plus a five-meter foul. Fellow center Hannah Curran, UC Davis' top returning scorer from 2013, notched three goals and three assists. The Aggies got all of this production from two meters despite the absence of junior Elsie Fullerton, who still returns from her preseason injury. "Getting Elsie back will be a huge shot in the arm for us," said Wright.
The entire senior class gave Wright added optimism about the Aggies' preparedness. While Curran led the offense on one end of the course, Katrina Husted demonstrated herself as a go-to stopper on the defensive side. "She went from bring our third defender last year [behind Jessica Dunn and Hannah Breen] to really stepping into the role this year. I thought Erin Schlueter and Alex Rawlinson were very dynamic and made a lot of good contributions. Paige Oreglia had a nice shot and passed the ball well on our 6-on-5s."
Another key for UC Davis in the early going was acclimating sophomore transfer Ariel Arcidiacono. The learning curve for any scorer can be steep when entering a new offense, but the La Jolla native made her Aggie debut with two goals and two drawn exclusions in 24 minutes of play.
The upcoming game provides more opportunities for adjustment. Sonoma State's Rudloff Pool has its own set of challenges, not the least of which is the smaller 25-yard course. "Every little mistake that you make on a 25-meter course is five times worse on a 25-yard course," said Wright. "When you think about it, offense wants to create space, defense tries to take away space. Playing in a small pool will challenge us offensively."
The Seawolves graduated two of the leading scorers and the starting goalkeeper from last year but return junior utility Jessica Stansfield (34 goals, 33 steals in 2013) and center Noelle Herrera (33 goals, 79 drawn exclusions). SSU finished sixth at the Western Water Polo Association tournament last spring.
More important than the opponent is UC Davis getting its first experience of competing in an adverse venue. According to Wright, Saturday's games will provide an early test for the Big West Conference road games at UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Hawai'i in April. "We've had a lot of success against Sonoma historically but it has been tough when we play them there. It's a tough place to play. I think this will really test us."