April 8, 2014
DAVIS, Calif. -
The grind of Big West Conference play takes a 24-hour break for the 16th-ranked UC Davis women's water polo team as it takes on Cal State Monterey Bay in neutral-site action Friday evening before resuming league play against host Hawai'i on Saturday night.
Both games take place at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex at 6 p.m. local, 8 p.m. Pacific.
The Aggies sifted through a mixed bag of performances in their most recent trip to Southern California, resulting in an 8-2 loss at No. 6 UC Irvine and a 5-4 setback to No. 12 Long Beach State, the latter of which they led by a 1-0 margin at halftime. Junior goalkeeper Jillian Wilding enjoyed her best overall weekend, finishing with 22 saves with 13 goals allowed (.629) while pouncing for four steals. Her 13 stops against the Anteaters tied a career high first set against Indiana earlier this year.
"Our defense played great and Jill [Jillian Wilding] did a fantastic job in both games," said UC Davis head coach Jamey Wright. "We forced the kinds of shots that we wanted to force and we didn't give up counterattack or 2-meter goals, which were some of our priorities. The only thing people scored on were 6-on-5s here and there and some outside shots where maybe we were a little too worried about the ball coming in. All in all, in the four conference games, we're giving up an average of 7.5 goals per game. That's pretty good defense, especially in these last two games against two highly ranked teams."
However, while the defense enjoyed an outstanding road set, the offense struggled to 6-for-42 (.143) shooting overall and 1-for-10 (.100) on power plays. The two goals against UCI marks just the second time UC Davis has been held to two or less in the last four seasons. Three of the team's leading scorers -- centers Hannah Curran, Allyson Hansen and Carla Tocchini -- combined for just one goal, often to little fault of their own.
According to Wright, the strength at that position largely worked against the Aggies when trying to generate offense. So much effort was made to getting the ball inside that defenses adjusted accordingly and took away other scoring opportunities. "We were passing up what might be a 50-50 or even a 40-60 shot to make what is a 30-70 pass to our centers. If the other team knows you're trying to get the ball inside to Shaq, they'll sag back and make you force it in. It will be turnover, turnover, turnover. If you attack and take that 50-50 or 40-60 shot early in the game, the defense will be out more and that 30-70 pass becomes a 70-30 pass. But you've got to be able to shoot the ball."
The 6-on-5 offense was another weak spot for the Aggies, Wright said. Overall, his team converted just one of 14 power plays. In Saturday's loss in Irvine, UC Davis missed on all nine chances, including six in the first quarter. "If we had made even three of those six, suddenly we're winning the game against the No. 6 team in the nation. The whole complexion of the game would have changed. But they hit a goal here and there and suddenly a two-goal lead felt like a 10-goal lead."
Thus, Wright's focus will shift more toward the offensive end, as opposed to the general emphasis on defense a week earlier. The plan, as always, will be shore up both ends of the course in time for the Big West Conference tournament at the end of the month. The outcome against Hawai'i on Saturday has no bearing on the league standings or tournament seeding.
"Our goals are the same every weekend: we have to play well enough to win," said Wright. "No matter what, we have to win three games at conference. We have to focus on playing well, and putting it together on both ends for four quarters."
CAL STATE MONTEREY BAY (9-14) lost both ends of Saturday's doubleheader Sonoma State. The Otters fell to UC San Diego in a Western Water Polo Association matchup by a 15-6 final, then lost the host and WWPA rival Seawolves, 11-7, in the nightcap. Freshman center Cami Kellogg highlighted CSUMB against SSU with four goals and two drawn exclusions, while redshirt freshman defender Jen Goforth victimized 13th-ranked UCSD for six steals. Another freshman, center Adrianna Craft, leads the Otters with 32 goals in 23 games this year.
HAWAI'I (15-9, 2-2) engaged in a pair of Big West Conference thrillers before rounding out its weekend with a 19-4 rout of La Verne on Sunday. The No. 9 Rainbow Wahine held an 8-5 lead over No. 7 Cal State Northridge before the host Matadors responded with three unanswered to force extra time. Kelcie Ferreira put CSUN ahead with just 41 seconds left in the second OT period. Some 21 hours and about 80 miles later, UH held a 7-4 lead at halftime and an 8-6 edge to start the fourth quarter against No. 15 UCSB. However, goalkeeper Amy Carlson made two key saves against the Gaucho two-meter offense, preserving an 8-7 victory. Paula Chillida Esforzado tallied six goals for the weekend, bringing her team-high total to 47.
SKIP SHOTS: In the last three games, junior goalkeeper Jillian Wilding has tallied 33 saves with 23 goals against (.589)... Statistically, her best stretch of games was 35 saves with 21 goals allowed (.625) at the 2013 Davis Challenge, but that came against the likes of Cal Lutheran, Cal State Bakersfield, Pacific and Sonoma State... The current run has taken place against two Top 7 opponents... The Big West Conference released its first stats report last Wednesday, with Allyson Hansen (11th, 36 goals) and Carla Tocchini (t13th, 27) ranking among the league's top 20 in total goals... CSUN's Marisa Young, who scored four against UC Davis two weekends ago, leads the Big West with 58 goals... Speaking of the Big West, the standings are as follows: t1. Cal State Northridge (2-0), t1. UC Irvine (2-0), 3. Hawai'i (2-2), t4. Long Beach State (1-1), t4. UC Santa Barbara (1-1), 6. UC Davis (0-4).