What a difference a year makes.
This time last season, the UC Davis women’s volleyball team was in the midst of a 19-match losing streak en route to a dismal 4-24 finish.
This time last season, Jamie Holmes was roaming the sidelines at Ohio State University, serving as the Buckeyes’ top assistant.
This season, things are different.
Holmes was named the Aggies’ head coach in March, and has wasted little time in changing the culture of the team.
UC Davis stormed out of the gates by winning six of its first seven matches. The team then finished off its non-conference schedule by beating rival Cal State Sacramento for the first time in 16 years, doubling up last season’s win total to start 8-5.
“I think that our preseason was a very good schedule,” Holmes said. “We had to crawl and fight for some of the victories that we had.”
As far as the Aggies have crawled, they now need to crawl a little farther. As hard as they have fought, they must fight a little harder.
The reason is simple: UC Davis competes in the Big West Conference – one of the top women’s volleyball conferences in the nation.
“Going into Big West Conference play, you already know it’s going to be tough,” Holmes said. “Some of the teams we’re competing against just have such great volleyball history.”
The conference hasn’t been too kind to the Aggies thus far. The team went 1-15 in league play a season ago, and has dropped each of its first six Big West contests this season to fall to 8-11.
UC Davis’ slow start in league play shouldn’t overshadow how far the program has come in such a short period of time. It just shows there’s still work to be done.
“Honestly, I feel very proud of our team,” Holmes said. “We’re doing some things a lot better then we were doing before.”
“But there’s a competitive element that needs to be addressed. I wish we could stick our foot on someone’s throat and press down really quickly. We’re just not there right now, but we’ll get there.”
How quickly the Aggies are able to develop that killer instinct will determine when they’ll make their Big West mark.
“It’s just about winning every day,” Holmes said. “It’s about winning a sprint, being the first one out at practice, competing when you’re in drills, conditioning. That’s just the hump we’ve got to get over.”
Big win, big loss
When the UC Davis men’s soccer team skunked No. 15 UCSB, it did so without one of its best players.
Unfortunately, the Aggies will have to get used to that.
Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Gauchos was No. 13 UC Davis’ first game since the loss of midfielder Ahmad Hatifie to a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula in his right leg.
The injury was sustained on a slide tackle early in the Aggies’ 1-0 win at Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday.
Hatifie wasn’t a guy who scored a boatload of goals. He didn’t have a bunch of assists.
He was more than that.
A senior co-captain, Hatifie’s presence alone helped the Aggies to victory in more ways than some stat sheet will ever lead you to believe.
While he can’t lead the team on the field, rest assured that Hatifie will be giving it his all from the sidelines – and that’s all the motivation UC Davis could ever need.
UC Davis did it all on Saturday night.
Three different players scored two touchdowns, the defense allowed just 13 yards rushing and the Aggies returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in a 49-26 dubbing of visiting Southern Utah.
“We got a complete game tonight,” said head coach Bob Biggs. “I thought we did some great things on special teams and I thought our offense played very well tonight. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of people. Defensively, we stopped them when we had to.”
No fourth-quarter comeback, no Hail Bakari – just a good old-fashioned beating.
Good time for it, too.
Saturday’s victory got UC Davis’ second season off on the right foot, giving the team its Great West Conference opener.
Those three road losses by a combined 11 points – they’re a thing of the past. The Aggies aren’t battling from behind in the standings any longer.
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