After losing all six starters, seven seniors and 59 percent of their goal production from last season, the Aggies knew they had their work cut out for them this year.
Another curveball has been thrown the Aggies‘ way as starting hole set and offensive weapon, Aaron Salit, decided to red shirt in 2009 along with junior Walter Eggert, the team‘s sprinter and most experienced player.
With these obstacles in front of them, the youthful Aggies start a challenging season with only nine out of their 23 players having two or more years of college experience.
“We have a very young group of guys,“ coach Steve Doten said. “It‘s no doubt the most talented group of young players. What I am most excited about is that this team will get better every day.“
The No. 18 Aggies look to improve after a rocky 5-4 start in which four of their five wins have come against unranked Division III schools.
UC Davis has been getting these wins by using its speed while attackers Cory Lyle and Colin Hicks have been leading the way offensively.
Lyle, who entered the season as the highest returning scorer with 10 goals last year leads the team with 12 strikes already in the young 2009 campaign.
Hicks brings in a dynamic game from Irvine, Calif, where he was a two time All-American who led the southern section with 141 goals as a senior. He sparked the Aggies in their only victory against a ranked opponent this season, scoring four goals in an 11-8 win against No. 10 Pacific last weekend.
In addition, junior Matt Richardson is making a name for himself among the great passing lefties before him, leading the team with 11 assists while adding eight goals.
Team captains and fifth-year seniors Brendan Sigourney and Jim Breen bring some size and depth to the team. Breen is the only returning defender on the roster and plays an integral role on the team. Sigourney, a utility player, drew six exclusions, three five-meter penalty shots and scored two goals last weekend at the NorCal Invite in Palo Alto, Calif.
“The way this year worked out we have a lot of different people stepping up rather than just one player,“ Sigourney said. “I think that once we really starting playing together we could be dangerous.“
The Aggies started the season with a loss to No. 3 California followed by four straight wins at Claremont against unranked opponents.
Last weekend, the Aggies headed to Stanford for the most competitive tournament of the year, the NorCal Invite. UC Davis went 1-3 with losses to No. 2 Stanford, No. 12 Santa Clara and No. 17 UC San Diego.
The Aggies did exceed expectations in the tournament, though, as they finished 12th at the invite, thanks to a big win over Pacific despite entering the tournament as the 15th ranked team.
“It would have been nice to get the wins over division rivals Santa Clara and San Diego,“ Lyle said. “But it‘s good we got to play them early and now we can make changes and beat them when it really matters.“
The team returns to action this weekend as it gets another shot at Santa Clara when it hosts the four-game Bronco Invitational.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at email@example.com.