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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Column: On deck

Wow, that was quick – fall quarter, that is.

The weather is getting colder and telling us to bundle up in our jackets, scarves and beanies.

While this may seem bad, it’s also good because it means winter sports have arrived.

You may already be familiar with some of these topics. If not, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

Moving on up

The men’s basketball team has finished ninth and eighth in the Big West Conference each of the past two years.

This season, the Aggies look to move into the top half of the league with a team that consists of two preseason all-conference first teamers.

That duo – juniors Mark Payne and Joe Harden – is something to marvel at, said coach Gary Stewart.

“They are keenly aware of where each other are, when they need the ball and what area they are most effective in,” Stewart said. “That’s something that you can’t create. It’s instinctive and they have it. It’s really hard to defend any combination of two players that have that skill set.”

Payne and Harden are assisted by senior center Dominic Calegari, who is making the transition from jump shooter to post-up player.

“That has been my focus in the offseason: Working on the inside game and being more versatile,” Calegari said. “I had that intention last year but found myself floating out on the perimeter. This year, I’m more comfortable inside than outside. I’m feeling stronger, bigger, more patient and a lot more confident inside.”

One area in which the Aggies will be challenged is their bench as they welcome a core of new faces to the squad.

“Where our season hangs in the balance,” Stewart said, “is dependent upon how quickly the new guys get acclimated to rigorous Division I play. Because of our system and the way that we play, we are going to have to rely on a deep bench.”

Simple addition

Subtract the loss of only one starter, Genevieve Costello, and add the return of senior Haylee Donaghe, the inside presence of Paige Mintun and a wealth of new talent.

The result? A darn good women’s basketball team.

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

Donaghe returns because she received one more year of eligibility after a knee injury cut last season short.

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

Teaming up with Donaghe is a fellow preseason All-Big West selection in Mintun.

Last season, Mintun led the Aggies with 13 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while accumulating team-highs in assists (69), steals (44) and blocks (31).

Senior Heidi Heintz will also join the Aggies after transferring from San Francisco.

“She is going to make a huge impact,” Donaghe said. “She got to practice all last season and is somewhat of a veteran. I expect her to do amazing things this season.”

Mohr polo, please

Four Aggies received All-Big West recognition last year for women’s water polo.

Three will return in 2010 to lead a squad that finished last season 23-10 and took third place at the first-ever Big West Tournament.

The Aggies shared the regular season conference title with two other teams and were ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation.

Behind Lindsay Kiyama, who graduated, junior Dakota Mohr was the Aggies’ leading scorer. The Big West second-teamer scored 42 times on the year and drew a school-record 116 exclusions and 11 five-meter penalties.

The year before, Mohr was named the Western Water Polo Association Freshman of the Year.

Strap up

Last season, junior Ricky Alcala was the first Aggie heavyweight wrestler to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

This year, he returns to lead a team that consists of only six juniors and seniors.

Needless to say, this is a young Aggie team that will experience some growing pains.

That started with a 38-6 loss to Pacific-10 Conference foe Arizona State to open the 2009-2010 campaign.

Seven freshmen competed for UC Davis against the Sun Devils, but none were able to come out with the win. Alcala and sophomore Rory McBryde each won by decision for the Aggies’ only two victories of the meet.

MAX ROSENBLUM is excited for winter sports, but not winter quarter itself. Also, he’ll be studying for the next two weeks solid, so don’t contact him at sports@theaggie.org unless it’s really, really important.

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