No. 11 Aggies return to action at No. 16 LBSU

Senior Hannah Harvey has 22 goals, 25 assists and 35 steals heading into Saturday's game. (Wayne Tilcock,
March 30, 2017

DAVIS, Calif. - If ever a veteran coach looks to draw from the past, this week's UC Davis women's water polo schedule provides such an opportunity. The 11th-ranked Aggies head down to 16th-ranked Long Beach State for their third Big West Conference contest, and 34th-year mentor Jamey Wright looks to the two previous meetings with the 49ers to prepare his team.

Yes, UC Davis won its previous meeting with Long Beach State, claiming an 11-10 overtime victory to open the Triton Invitational. And yes, in the rearview mirror, it now just shows up in the `W' column as part of the team's turning point from its 1-8 start to the year to what is now a winning (14-13) record. However, Wright remembers how it went down near the end: LBSU took a 10-8 lead with just 2:07 remaining in overtime before Paige Virgil hit back-to-back then Kathleen Schafle scored her first collegiate goal as the game-winner with 12 ticks left. Requiring three unanswered goals to escape with an overtime win shows how evenly matched the Aggies and 49ers are.

However, the biggest cautionary tale for Wright was last year's Big West matchup with the Beach. Just like this year, the 2016 Aggies were just coming off finals week and resuming action during their Spring Break week. Just like this year, the 2016 Aggies had gained some serious season momentum in early March, achieving their highest national ranking of the year. Just like this year, the 2016 49ers played multiple games during the previous week while UC Davis was battling final exams.

"Last year, we played Long Beach in a similar scenario. We had not played the weekend before, and they had, and it showed," said Wright. "We were out of sorts and not in sync. They jumped on us in the first quarter, and even though we played better in the next three quarters, we never overcame that initial deficit.

"So it's something we're very mindful of. We're trying to do game-like scrimmaging every night, with shorter durations but higher intensity. We want to be in a game-ready mode. We hope to see that we learned our lesson from last year. We can't come out half-speed."

UC Davis left off on a relative high note, with five Aggies scoring multiple goals in a 13-10 Big West win over CSUN. Virgil had three goals and three assists to win the league's Player of the Week nod. Sophomore McKenna Hauss added a hat trick, while Sammy Preston, Greta Kohlmoos and Hannah Harvey each chipped in a pair of scores. The junior tandem of Kohlmoos and Virgil ranks first and third, respectively, among Big West scorers at 2.00 and 1.93 goals per game. Senior goalkeeper Avery Dotterer leads the league with 163 saves.

Even more satisfying to Wright is his team's all-important power-play conversion rate in that March 18 win. Once a major trouble spot -- the Aggies succeeded on fewer than 25 percent of such chances during their first three weekends -- UC Davis improved to 6-for-10 in the victory over CSUN. For the USAWP Hall of Fame coach, getting such a performance on a consistent basis will be the major focus for the final stretch of the year.

"If you look at our CSUN game statistically, we won it because we did better in our 6-on-5 conversions," said Wright. "We have to be converting at a high rate. We're getting there. Long Beach does some different things where they hit out, not a full storm, but they get you out of your comfort zone. We have to be ready for that and know how to counteract it, and maybe even use it to our advantage."

Saturday's game at Lindgren Aquatics Center begins at noon.

SKIP SHOTS: Junior Greta Kohlmoos' two goals vs. CSUN on March 18 brought her career total to exactly 100, highest among active players... Next on the list are Carla Tocchini (96), who has sat out 2017 due to injury; and Hannah Harvey (89)... Kohlmoos has 54 goals for the year, putting her in a tie for ninth in school history with two-time All-American Allyson Hansen... Katherine O'Rourke (2007) and Carmen Eggert (2011) are next on the season list with 57... Junior Paige Virgil is within striking range of the top 10 with her 52 scores... Sophomore Annie Kutt has recorded at least one assist in 14 straight games... Her season total of 36 puts her in a tie for fifth in school history with Keelia Houston (2013)... Next on the school single season list are Erin Schlueter (38 in 2013), Jessica Dunn (40 in 2011), Sofia Patronas (42 in 2009) and Dunn again (45 in 2013)... Speaking of assists, Hannah Harvey has 69 for her career, just six away from entering the school's top 10.

ABOUT THE OPPONENT: LONG BEACH STATE (12-9, 1-1) scored its first Big West win in an 8-7 thriller at CSUN on Saturday... Senior Christina Kotsia netted four goals in the victory, securing Big West Conference Player of the Week accolades... She leads the 49ers with 36 goals while junior Alexandra Massier has 26 and returning first-team All-BWC honoree has 24.