First-year coach Vianney Campos uses phrases such as “an opportunity to grow” to describe her team through its first eight games.
This stretch for the Aggies has been nothing shy of that, as not one player on the roster had Division-I game experience prior to the start of the season.
“It has definitely been a learning experience,” Campos said. “We have the mentality of growing individually, as a team and as a program every single game.“
Despite closing out the summer with five straight losses, the Aggies have shown their ability to grow in only the first few games as a new program.
UC Davis started off its inaugural season with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Missouri State in front of former Aggie field hockey greats from the program’s intercollegiate days 27 years ago.
Freshman Liz Siemion scored first for UC Davis on an assist from Marissa Hughes exactly 18 minutes into the game.
The Bears responded with a goal of their own to tie up the score a little over two minutes later.
The two teams exchanged goals again as the game entered a sudden-death overtime period with the score tied 2-2.
Six minutes into the extra session, Hughes found the back of the net on a deflection from the left side with Lindsey Valadez recording the assist on the play.
UC Davis outshot Missouri State 20-13 for the game and dominated on corners with an 11-3 advantage.
The win marked the first for the Aggies since the 1982 season.
“[The win] was definitely good momentum for us,” Campos said. “A lot of the kids didn’t know what to expect at this level. All of [the players] were pretty much freshmen and only one saw a collegiate game.
“For them to come in, compete at that level and come out with the win was huge because it gave them confidence and made them feel like they belonged at the Division-I level.“
Freshman co-captain Kristen Lopez shared her coach’s enthusiasm.
“It was huge,” Lopez said. “Our first two scrimmages were kind of rocky. We knew we could win the Missouri [State] game. It was really cool to beat them in overtime.“
UC Davis followed up the momentous win with a 1-0 victory over Saint Francis five days later.
Freshman Ellre Ancheta scored the Aggies‘ lone goal seven minutes into the second half and goalie Lauren Sawvelle recorded the shutout to give UC Davis its second win of the season.
Another victory one day later over La Salle pushed UC Davis‘ record to 3-0 and had Campos raving about the athleticism of her squad.
“When you have kids who are athletic and naturally aggressive, it makes it so much easier to build,” Campos said. “They meshed well on the field and it was phenomenal to come out with three wins.“
UC Davis encountered struggles on the road after its hot start, losing the next five contests, four of which were away from home. The Aggies‘ lacked scoring in those games as they only managed to get three goals during that stretch.
“It was a change in style of play,” Campos said, “but we shouldn’t have excuses. We had video on all those teams and we should have been able to adjust. Six games in 11 days was a lot for them mentally and physically. What they learned out of it was that we have to adjust every game. We adjust to each team. The next game is a new game.“
Lopez also sees the Aggies‘ youthfulness and other teams‘ wealth of experience as factors in those games.
“The teams that have been playing together have been doing so for years and years,” Lopez said. “It is a lot bigger on the East Coast and there are a lot more players coming out of high school to play on college teams. This is our first couple of months playing together. We learned a brand new formation when we got here and our first day was only a couple of months ago.“
UC Davis lone home loss came by way of No. 14 Stanford, 5-1.
The Aggies enter Sunday’s contest with Pacific, Campos‘ alma mater, on a losing streak. Still, the young coach sees a lot of positives in the team’s play over the first half of the season.
“Every game that we have played, win or lose, we have been close,” Campos said. “We haven’t been blown out. Even though the score was as it was [against Stanford], we weren’t blown out. We were in the game. It has paid off for us and we are not going to stop here. The kids are growing every day.“
“We know that we have to come out strong,” Lopez said. “Our mentality has to be there. There are some games that we lost that we definitely could have won, but we just didn’t come out strong enough. There are teams that are going to be better than us, but we can stick with them.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.