April 1, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. - A pair of home losses to UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge has put the 15th-ranked UC Davis women's water polo team into an 0-2 hole to start Big West Conference, giving added importance to the upcoming weekend, in which the Aggies take on UC Irvine and Long Beach State.
Though disappointed with the scores, veteran head coach Jamey Wright found positives from certain parts of homestand, areas that he hopes can propel his ship as it continues to navigate the challenging Big West waters. The Aggies held the No. 16 Gauchos to just seven goals, then stormed to a 4-2 start in Sunday's matchup with the No. 7 Matadors.
Individually, sophomore center Allyson Hansen continues to shine as a bright spot on the UC Davis roster. She shot 6-for-8 for the weekend, and had two steals, five drawn exclusions and a drawn five-meter foul in Saturday's battle with UCSB. Junior utility Paige Oreglia added a pair of goals with a steal against the Gauchos. Senior attacker Alex Rawlinson tallied three assists against CSUN.
"There were some encouraging parts to the weekend but the outcomes were not what we were expecting or what we had worked for," said Wright. "I thought they were both winnable games. There's a high likelihood that we will play one or the other at the Big West tournament, and I don't feel like we'll go in thinking, `I don't know how we'll get past them' or that either will be an insurmountable climb."
"All we can do now is fix the things that weren't working and continue doing the things that worked. We have a new weekend of tough competition. It doesn't get any easier, that's for sure."
Indeed, the upcoming weekend poses even tougher opposition than the previous one if the national Top 20 rankings can be taken at face value. Four-time Big West champ UC Irvine, ranked sixth in last Wednesday's poll, opened league play with a 9-5 win at No. 10 Hawai'i. Junior utility Danielle Warde and senior attacker Jessy Cardey each scored three goals for the Anteaters, while junior goalkeeper Jillian Yocum tallied 11 saves. McKenna Mitchell, second to Warde for the UCI scoring lead with 41 goals, totaled seven scores in the two previous wins over UC Davis.
No. 12 Long Beach State lost a 9-8 overtime battle to the Rainbow Wahine two weeks ago but rebounded to a 10-8 victory over No. 19 Hartwick last weekend. Goalkeeper Kelly Ringel has held opponents to 103 goals in 548 minutes for a stingy 6.01 GAA. She won Big West Conference Player of the Week honors for her part in an 11-0 shutout of Bucknell earlier in March. Seniors Chelsea Parks and Coriann Snyder, two of three 49ers to score two goals against the Wahine, lead their team with a combined 80 goals in 24 games this season. Junior attacker Justine Morgan is close behind with 38.
However, Wright's primary concern heading into the weekend has less to do with the opposing scorers and more to do with his own. The Aggies shot .196 (11-for-55) for the weekend, including .133 (4-for-30) against UCSB.
"We have to get some better offensive production," Wright said. "We might try to give some different people some opportunities. We still have five games until our conference tournament, so let's see what we can do. Four goals against Santa Barbara -- we just didn't shoot the ball well. We'll add a few more things and try to add some more punch."
A coach as experienced as Wright may not put too much stock in the win and loss columns during the regular-season games, so long as his team competes at its highest level. "Sure, it doesn't matter now, it matters when you're at the conference tournament. But you can't go into conference in this kind of a funk. If we went in 0-5 but we're playing like we did in the first quarter against Northridge, then I like our odds."
Both Saturday's game at UC Irvine and Sunday's tilt at Long Beach State begin at noon.
SKIP SHOTS: A favorite stat of USA Water Polo Hall of Famer Jamey Wright is the 6-on-5 conversion percentages, both for and against... Offensively, this year's team has the highest success rate (.424) since the .481 clip set by the 2008 team, which advanced to the NCAA final four... However, opponents have converted 86 of 179 power plays (.450), by far the highest rate against since UC Davis began compiling such stats in 2001... As a result, the team's overall GAA of 8.79 is the highest in program history... On the bright side, sophomore Allyson Hansen leads the Aggies in goals (36), total points (54), shooting (.486), steals (23) and drawn exclusions (58)... Freshman Carla Tocchini ranks second among team leaders with 27 goals despite averaging just 12.9 minutes per game... She has the highest total by a true freshman since 2010, when Jessica Dunn (44) and Carly Ternasky (36) finished 1-2 among high-scoring Aggies.