Jan. 28, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - Following a decisive 16-7 victory at Sonoma State and a 14-11 exhibition win over the O-Club's all-star cast of former collegiate standouts, the 18th-ranked UC Davis women's water polo ramps up for the eight-team Stanford Invitational, held at The Farm's Avery Stadium and Belardi Pool on Saturday and Sunday.
The Aggies are pooled with host Stanford plus fellow Big West Conference members Hawai'i and UC Irvine. The `B' bracket comprises UCLA, California, San Jose State and Michigan.
"We're looking for this weekend, it's another opportunity to test ourselves against Top 10 and Top 5 teams," said head coach Jamey Wright. "Irvine beat Arizona State last weekend so they will probably ranked fifth by the time we play them. Stanford will be No. 2 and Hawai'i will probably be No. 6 or 7. So certainly we have our work cut out for us, but that's the only we get better."
The weekend tournament provides the added obstacle of having four high-level games this weekend. UC Davis has just the one game in its opening day, albeit one against No. 4 California. The Aggies had a tournament-like schedule in their single-day trip to Sonoma State last Saturday, and even got a taste of All-American opposition with the Olympic Club.
"I know it's exhibition and it doesn't count and all that stuff, but that was a good win," Wright said. "They had Brenda Villa, a four-time Olympian and a 2012 gold medalist in the water. Bernie Orwig was an 2000 Olympian. She was in the goal. They had their usual group, and they were trying."
Most importantly, Wright allowed his entire roster to gain significant minutes in the water. In the season opener with Cal, 115 of the 192 total field minutes were distributed among five players: Allyson Hansen, Ariel Arcidiacono, Keelia Houston, Hannah Curran and Katrina Husted. Against SSU, 13 players saw double-digit playing time with no one logging more than the equivalent of two quarters in the water.
According to Wright, the four-game schedule of the Stanford Invite will put his entire roster to the test. "This weekend will challenge our depth and our fitness level, but that's something we worked on last weekend. Everybody played a lot of minutes, and I feel comfortable putting in our reserves."
STANFORD (0-0) officially opens its season with this tournament, an exhibition against host Cal at the Speedo Cup tournament two weeks ago notwithstanding. The Cardinal returns three ACWPC All-Americans: Cutino Award finalist and former FINA Player of the Year Maggie Steffens (60 goals in 2013), plus senior center Annika Dries (35 goals) and senior driver Kaley Dodson (31 goals).
UC IRVINE (4-0) went undefeated at UC Santa Barbara's Winter Invite last weekend, highlighting that action with an 11-6 victory over No. 8 San Jose State and a 9-6 upset of No. 4 Arizona State. Senior attacker and two-time Big West Player of the Year Jessy Cardey scored four goals each against Cal Baptist and San Jose State in Saturday's portion for her first action after redshirting the 2013 season. Senior Hannah Croghan netted four in the Sunday win over the Sun Devils.
HAWAI'I (0-0) will Santa Clara and Cal State East Bay prior to its participation at the Stanford Invite. The Rainbow Wahine broke UC Irvine's reign over the Big West with a 5-4 double-overtime victory in last season's conference title game. UH graduated All-Americans Monika Eggens and Amarens Genee from that squad, but returns All-Big West Conference honoree Paula Chillida Esforzado, who set a school record with 53 assists in 2013.
The Aggies open tournament play against the host Cardinal at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday. A tournament headquarters page is available at www.gostanford.com.