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Monday, September 20, 2021

Column: Are you ready?

Last week, I gave you a preview of the UC Davis men’s basketball squad.

Now it’s time switch over to the ladies’ side of things.

Here are some headlines about the 2009-2010 UC Davis women’s basketball team that you should take note of.

Welcome back, Haylee

Five years and two season-ending injuries later, senior Haylee Donaghe is back for one more year with the Aggies.

Donaghe, who was the first UC Davis women’s basketball player to receive a full scholarship, has been through her share of ups and downs in her six-year career.

But she’s finally back and feeling good after a knee injury cut last season short.

“[My knee] feels really good,” Donaghe said. “It’s been a long and pretty hard rehab process.”

Donaghe, who’s experience will be a key asset to the Aggies’ success this season, is just trying to take it easy for now and looking to get used to playing at full speed again.

“I’m just trying to be patient and focus on not getting out of control and not pushing too hard from the beginning,” she said.

Donaghe played in only nine games last season before the injury forced her to call it a year. Fortunately, she was granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA as she attends graduate school.

Coach Sandy Simpson couldn’t be more pleased.

“One of the things she gives us aside from her skills and experience,” Simpson said, “is her understanding of the system and coaching staff. She is able to interpret for the younger players what the coaches are saying. She helps them read between the lines. There is no substitute for that.”

Donaghe has done more than come back from injuries, though. She’s also helped the program evolve to the point it at now.

“She’s had a star-crossed career injury wise,” Simpson said, “but she’s had the opportunity to see this program evolve into a legitimate Division I program.”

Turning the Paige

Well, there won’t actually be any page turning. Junior forward Paige Mintun was already good. This year, she’s that much better.

“Paige is a very unique blend of skill set and athleticism,” Simpson said. “You don’t see a lot of 6-foot-3 posts who have a variety of low post moves, can go out and shoot the three, run the floor and defensively block shots the way she does. She is a matchup nightmare.”

The Valley Center, Calif. native led the Aggies with 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season. She also accumulated team-highs in assists (69), steals (44) and blocks (31).

Loaded with experience

The Aggies were riddled with injuries last season. As a result, a lot of freshmen got valuable playing experience.

Due to this, Simpson says that many of his sophomores have junior-level experience.

“The advantage is we’re moving so much more quickly this year,” Simpson said. “A couple of weeks into our preseason practice we were probably where we were at midseason last year.”

With that experience, the return of Donaghe and Vicky Deely from season-ending injuries – plus the addition of several new faces – the only weakness the Aggies have is, well, playing time.

Donaghe joked about how if that’s the only problem the Aggies have this year, they are going to be all right.

“We have so many people that can contribute,” Donaghe said. “That’s going to be one of our biggest challenges this year, which is not such a bad problem to have.”

Some of those new additions are freshman Blair Shinoda and senior Heidi Heintz, a transfer from San Francisco, who will add a lot to the Aggies’ game.

Stacked schedule

In addition to playing its slate of 16 Big West Conference games – which includes perennial power UC Santa Barbara – UC Davis has several matchups against other solid programs.

The Aggies will play Washington State, Creighton, Kansas State and Seton Hall.

The most notable game on UC Davis’ schedule is Sunday’s contest against No. 2 Stanford at the Pavilion.

“[Stanford] might be better now than their two national championship teams,” Simpson said. “They have the best post contingent in the country – even better than UConn.”

Even with the tough non-conference schedule, the Aggies are still certain of where they want to be by season’s end.

“Our number one goal is to be Big West champions,” Donaghe said. “We have been emphasizing championship effort in our practices. That’s where we know we are going to be at the end of the season if we stick to our mottos.”

MAX ROSENBLUM wants a packed Pavilion for UC Davis’ matchup against Stanford this Sunday. Tipoff is at 2 p.m. Come through for him at sports@theaggie.org.

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