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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Inside the game with…

Haylee Donaghe isn’t like most student athletes.

While most spend four years at UC Davis, Donaghe is in year six, now completing her master’s in exercise biology. It hasn’t been as easy as it seems for the Atascadero, Calif. native as three-season ending injuries have prolonged her stay.

After being granted clock extension by the NCAA in October, Donaghe began what will be her final season as an Aggie.

In the midst of Big West Conference play, Donaghe sat down with Aggie sports writer Mark Ling to discuss her goals for this season, her injury-plagued career and her relationship with her sister, Hannah.

What are your personal goals for this season?

My biggest personal goal is to just stay healthy (knocks on wood). I wanted to get one more solid complete season in and I was hoping that my offense and defense would come along which it has. For the most part I wanted to have a season where I could play and travel and get one last team experience.

Aside from winning a championship, which everybody wants to do, is there anything left that you haven’t done in your career that you’d still like to accomplish?

Honestly, I had two really early injuries in my freshman and sophomore seasons and I think that those really affected my perspective on basketball. I think I’ve done a really good job in the last four years of taking advantage of my opportunity and not taking this experience for granted. [Plus] just living in the moment and enjoying my teammates and coaches for everything they’re worth. But, yes, I would like to get that championship. That would be the icing on the cake of this crazy six-year spree.

Are you satisfied with your time at UC Davis and career as an Aggie? The ACL injury last year was frustrating because I burned that season. The other two injuries, though, gave me an opportunity to change my perspective and mature and develop a sense of perseverance where I know I can get back in the game if I encounter set-backs and injuries.

In terms of my experience at UC Davis, I don’t think I would have wanted to play anywhere else. I got so lucky because I only played one season of club basketball my junior year of high school and a coach here saw me play and things kind of fell into place.

I love the coaching staff; I think we have one of the best, if not the best, coaching staffs in the nation. I would stand behind them versus anyone.

The girls on the team and I are all really good friends and love the support we get. We travel to other schools and they don’t have the kind of support we do because every day the Aggie Pack, the Band-Uh!, and members of the community are here. It’s just so much fun for us to play in front of people who know who we are and are rooting for us. I honestly couldn’t ask for anything more.

At the beginning of the year, your coach held you back a little bit because of your knee injury. Do you think about it now and does it affect the way that you play?

I really have not been thinking about it. At the beginning of the season I was going back and forth as to whether or not I should wear a brace. I ended up deciding not to because I thought it would remind me of the injury. Thinking about it while I’m out there playing wouldn’t help anything. I think the east coast road trip where we played Seton Hall and Yale was a turning point for me. I really started feeling like, on defense, I had some spring back in my jumps and then I think the offense started following after that. Things are finally starting to click and hopefully they will keep coming along towards the end of the season.

What are your plans after the season?

I’m going to finish my masters in the spring. I’m also planning on taking the MCAT’s in the spring and applying to medical schools over the summer. Me and Genevieve [Costello] – she’s my roommate and she played with us last year – we’re trying to plan a trip to Europe over the summer before we get back into the real world and medical school. I’d like to stay in school as long as possible and I’m looking forward to taking the next step but I still have a lot left here to enjoy. It’s funny. It doesn’t seem like it’s been six years.

Your younger sister Hannah plays basketball for Stanford. You were able to play against each other one time a few seasons ago but haven’t been able to lately because of injuries. Talk about how that’s been.

We have pretty bad luck when it comes to injuries but I’m so proud of her. She’s coming back from an ACL injury like the one I had. She tore it about six weeks after I tore mine so our parents were in a deep depression. She had her surgery about two months after me but she hurt her MCL a little too so her rehab has been a lot longer. She’s just about to get cleared and I couldn’t be more proud of her. I know exactly what she’s had to go through and she has such a positive attitude because she loves basketball.

Because of our injuries, we got to play each other once out of three seasons and it was really fun. It was probably only eight minutes at the end of that first game.

It was kind of fitting, growing up together playing against each other on the blacktop outside. It was an opportunity that most people never have. Our family really loved it. We had tons of people there to see the Donaghe matchup. It was definitely something I won’t forget.

If your sister plays against UC Davis in the future will you be in the stands wearing Cardinal red or Aggie blue?

(Laughs) I think I would have to wear a Stanford sweatshirt over my Aggie shirt while I secretly root for Davis.

MARK LING can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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