With the message “building a champion one block at a time,” Aggie head coach Jamie Holmes is on a mission to lead UC Davis to its first Big West Conference title in school history.
“It’s a reminder that champions aren’t made overnight,” Holmes said. “We’re working on the process of how champions go about doing things.“
The Aggies took a huge step toward that goal with two big wins against Pacific and Cal State Northridge at Hickey Gymnasium this weekend.
A near capacity crowd of 648 watched freshman Allison Whitson post a game-high 19 kills and sophomore middle blocker Betsy Sedlak get nine stuff blocks en route to an impressive 3-1 home-opening win against Pacific Thursday night.
“There have only been a couple of matches where the crowd has had that much of an impact on us,” said senior setter Carson Lowden after the match. “We definitely play better when the crowd is on our side. They are our seventh man.“
“The crowd was so great,” Whitson said. “They brought tons of energy to the floor and I think our team just fed off all that energy.“
The players weren’t the only ones to display their gratitude to fans as Holmes got in on the mix.
“[The crowd] allows our players to feel special,” Holmes said. “They put in a lot of time and a lot of effort into their sport and try to represent Davis in a first class manner. I think that when there are fans here it makes the players feel like that time and energy is worth it.“
The win marks the first time that the Aggies have beaten the Tigers in school history after 12 previous losses.
“I am just so excited,” Lowden said. “It was the first time in my career we beat Pacific. Our assistant coach played at Pacific so this is a big deal for our team.“
The loss was only the Tigers‘ second of the season with the first coming against the then No. 5 Florida Gators.
UC Davis put their 1-0 conference record on the line one night later at Hickey against Cal State Northridge. The Aggies did not disappoint as they took down their conference foes in five sets 3-2.
Whitson continued her impressive play as she tallied a match-high 19 kills including three of the final five points in the fifth set helping the Aggies to improve their record to 11-5 on the season and 2-0 in conference play.
The Aggies and Matadors traded the first four sets creating a tight and evenly-matched fifth set.
The Aggies stayed on top early in the fifth game aided by two Matador service errors and a hitting miscue.
The Aggies then took an 8-5 lead when juniors Kayla Varney and Melanie Adams provided back to back kills for the Aggies. Whitson took over from there with three kills in a row, creating match point. UC Davis finished off the set with a 15-9 score as they eked out a close five-set win over Northridge.
The last time the Aggies began the season with a 2-0 conference start was in 1996 when the Aggies beat Chico State and Cal State Hayward in the North California Athletic Conference.
The Aggies will go on the road next week where they look to stay atop the Big West against the Highlanders of UC Riverside.
KYLE HYLAND can be reached at email@example.com.