Before signing up for my first collegiate class, before spending my first night in the dorms and before eating my first of approximately 540 meals at the dining commons freshman year, I applied for a position on the sports desk at The California Aggie.
Three years later, I’m saying goodbye.
I’m leaving the sports desk to be The Aggie’s new editor-in-chief. It’s no secret that our newspaper (like basically every other paper known to mankind) is struggling to make ends meet financially. Next year is going to be a difficult one for us, and the opportunity to help guide us through it was one I couldn’t pass up.
That said, I’m going to miss this desk. I’m going to miss filling this space. I’m going to miss being so close to so many players and coaches.
For those reasons, I know I can’t really say goodbye.
Instead, I’m looking ahead. Next year is going to be a fun one in the world of UC Davis athletics. Here are some of the story lines I’ll be watching for as a fan in the Aggie Pack instead of as a reporter on press row.
Three in a row?
Dwayne Shaffer said it before, and he’ll say it again.
“We had some special kids on our team this season,” the UC Davis men’s soccer coach said. “It’s going to be hard to ever duplicate some of these kids. To get a Quincy [Amarikwa], a Sule [Anibaba], Dylan Curtis, Ian Conklin, Paul Marcoux, Ahmad Hatifie, Jordan Vanderpoorten all at the same time – I hope everyone had a chance to come watch them.“
Saying the Aggies have some big shoes to fill would be an understatement.
Of those stars named above, only Marcoux returns next season. They have some younger players ready to step into bigger roles (Chris Leer, Miles Hadley, Lance Patterson, etc.), and also bring in an impressive recruiting class.
Maybe UC Davis won’t be ranked No. 7 in the nation next year. It still has the talent necessary, though, to make a run at its third NCAA Tournament berth in as many Division I seasons.
Offense, offense, offense. With quarterback Greg Denham, receivers Bakari Grant and Chris Carter and four talented tailbacks returning, it’s easy to think all offense, all the time for the UC Davis football team.
That doesn’t mean you should.
Enter Mark Johnson. The new defensive coordinator brings a new zone-blitzing attack the Aggies‘ way.
Coach Bob Biggs said this new scheme is just what UC Davis needed.
“We’re not particularly big on defense – particularly on the defensive line – but we’re active,” he said. “We’ve got linebackers that can run.… [This scheme brings] a lot of opportunities to create some defensive plays behind the line of scrimmage.“
Another year of experience for Denham and the offense plus this new defensive approach spells improvement for the Aggies.
Having Boise State, Fresno State, Montana and Cal Poly on the schedule, though, means that improvement from last year’s 5-7 record won’t be easy to come by.
Mark Payne, Joe Harden, Ryan Silva, Dominic Calegari – they’re all coming back next year.
The player who won’t be back, though, is the one who’ll be impossible to replace.
Vince Oliver was the heart of the UC Davis men’s basketball team. If you needed a clutch jumper, he’d hit it. If something needed to be said, he’d say it. If you needed an actor, hell, he could be that, too (Oliver was an accomplished child actor).
Can Payne, Harden and Co. step up to fill the void left by Oliver’s departure? Can freshman phenom Julian Welch produce from Oliver’s old spot in the lineup?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then the Aggies won’t just be fighting for another win in the Big West Conference Tournament; they could be a contender for the title.
Is this even fair?
The men’s basketball team has a lot of talent coming back. The women’s team? Sheesh. They’ve got plenty.
A slew of injuries gave six freshmen – Kasey Riecks, Hana Asano, Cortney French, Lauren Juric, Samantha Meggison and Lisa Peterson – the opportunity to rack up big minutes last year.
They’ll have help next year. A ton of it.
Paige Mintun will be healthy. Haylee Donaghe and Vicky Deely will be back from season-ending injuries. Transfer Heidi Heintz will be eligible after sitting out last year. Anna Harp? Yeah, she’ll be back after redshirting last season, too.
That’s 12 players with the talent to be starters, boys and girls. Man, this is going to be fun.
The women’s water polo team entered the 2009 season with tempered expectations, having graduated eight seniors who played integral roles in helping the team to a fourth-place national finish.
It placed No. 12 in the country.
“With the lack of experience from returning players and obviously the incoming freshman,” coach Jamey Wright said, “to get to be the co-conference regular season champ – it’s just a phenomenal accomplishment for this team.“
UC Davis will have to fill Lindsay Kiyama’s slot in the lineup next year, but returns the likes of Dakotah Mohr, Kaylee Miller and Ashley Chandler.
Odds are these Aggies will be even better next season.
ADAM LOBERSTEIN proudly hands off the sports editor and columnist reigns to Max Rosenblum. You’re going to do good things, kid. Loberstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.