No. 18 Aggies open Triton Invite with No. 14 49ers

Feb. 8, 2017

DAVIS, Calif. - A tough weekend at the Stanford Invitational ended on a high note – an overtime win against former rival Loyola Marymount – and sends 18th-ranked UC Davis women’s water polo to UC San Diego for the annual Triton Invitational. The Aggies open with No. 14 Long Beach State, then will face either No. 5 Arizona State or Sonoma State in Saturday’s nightcap.

Overall, the Triton offers one of the more formidable tournament fields of the collegiate season, with 13 of the 16 entrants ranked in Wednesday’s CWPA Top 25 coaches’ poll. Six of the country’s top 10 are in attendance: USC, Arizona State, Michigan, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and the host Tritons.

UC Davis went 1-3 at last week’s event in Stanford, taking losses to No. 7 Michigan, No. 16 San Jose State and No. 4 California, before junior Paige Virgil’s four Aggies propelled the Aggies to a 9-7 victory over LMU. Virgil scored eight goals with six drawn exclusions for the weekend, sophomore Annie Kutt added five goals and five assists. Freshman Chloe Robinson provides an “instant offense” presence, shooting 6-for-9 in just 15 total minutes of playing time in her three appearances.

Unfortunately, the Aggies were slightly depleted for most of the tournament. Senior Hannah Harvey was out due to illness while junior Heather Johnson went down with injury in Saturday’s second game, depleting the team of two of its fastest swimmers. However, head coach Jamey Wright saw a higher-priority item that serves as a focal point for his team’s training.

“I don’t know any other way to put it, we have to be much, much better on our 6-on-5s,” said the USAWP Hall of Famer. “We were 5-for-27 for the weekend. Our opponents were 14-for-24. We’re getting outscored by two goals a game just on 6-on-5. Drawing a ton of exclusions but scoring a low percentage of them is not good. Although if you look at the 6-on-5 shooting for our players, one person – Chloe – is 7-for-7. So for her, it’s about figuring out how to play her more. She’s a gamer and a baller. At some point, we need more people who can make 6-on-5 goals.”

Of course, Wright points out that converting those power-play opportunities has less to do with the shooting and more to do with passing. Both executing 6-on-5s or defending against them comes down to coordination, positioning and situational awareness, which are ultimately products of experience. The UC Davis roster certainly has the talent but remains relatively short on repetitions, making every hour of practice an investment for what should be a high-upside payoff down the road. 

“Our five-man blocking and our 6-on-5 passing are our next big steps,” said Wright. “If we get better at our five-man blocks, the opponents’ 6-on-5 percentage goes down. If we get better at passing, our 6-on-5 percentage goes up. I don’t need to be dramatically better this week, I just want to be in the ballgame. Right now, it’s like we’re spotting the other team a two-goal lead. 

“Win, lose or draw this weekend, we have to improve in those areas.”

Saturday’s game against Long Beach State begins at 9:20 a.m., with the afternoon contest with Arizona State or Sonoma State at either 1:20 or 2:40 p.m. A tournament central website is available at

SKIP SHOTS: Every available player saw action in at least two games each during the Stanford Invite and LouStrong Memorial tournaments, a trend that now ends with the Triton... With the team making its first plane trip of the year, Coach Wright will have to make some tough decisions on who travels this weekend... Six players have appeared in all 10 games and averaged double-digit minutes: Annie Kutt (22.2), Greta Kohlmoos (20.4), McKenna Hauss (20.0), Kathleen Schafle (18.2), Paige Virgil (17.9) and Sammy Preston (12.9)... Virgil already has 17 goals, putting her on pace to break 50 for the season... For reference, last year’s leading scorer, Allyson Hansen, netted 54 in 30 games (1.8 pg).

THE OPPONENTS: LONG BEACH STATE (1-3) opened the year with a 9-8 win over San Jose State, but has faced a tough schedule since: California, Stanford and UCLA... Senior Christina Kotsia, sophomore Tori Morrissey and junior Virginia Smith each have four of the team’s 22 total goals... Smith was a first-team All-Big West honoree last year, while Morrissey made the second team... ARIZONA STATE (3-0) swept its season-opening weekend with victories over San Diego State (13-4), Wagner (13-3) and UC Santa Barbara (8-4)... Maud Koopman, an honorable mention All-American as a freshman in 2016, scored five goals in the win over the Aztecs... Junior goalie Mia Rycraw, also a returning All-American, led the MPSF with 318 saves last year... SONOMA STATE (2-5) split a Saturday doubleheader with a 10-8 win over Fresno Pacific and an 8-7 loss at Santa Clara... Senior Carleigh Robinson totaled seven goals in the two contests, bringing her season total to a team-best 15... Senior Nicole Groat has 12 goals with 10 assist for a Seawolf-best 22 points.