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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Column: Youth on course

Jamey Wright has a law background, not a science one.

That doesn’t stop the 27-year coach from using biological terms to draw a parallel to his 18th-ranked women’s water polo team.

He calls the group an organism that’s still developing and a squad with a good young nucleus.

This is why Wright says he’s having a great time this season even though the team hasn’t won as many games as in previous years.

“Some people might think it’s been a disappointing season but it really hasn’t been,” Wright said. “[It’s about] watching that whole dynamic and how those people progress and find their way when more is expected of them than was last year.”

Heading into the season, the Aggies redshirted two of their more productive players from last year. As a result, they knew a lot of young players were going to get substantial minutes this season and with that, gain a good amount of experience.

“With a young team, there’s so much to learn,” said Casey Hines, senior goaltender and co-captain. “Young players have the talent. They just need the experience. Every game is another experience.”

Conventional wisdom says most teams might be better off with an experienced, seasoned roster. However, it’s this impressive mix of youth and talent that may prove to be more beneficial to the Aggies than if the roster was full of upperclassmen.

This is part due to two main reasons: First, a young team will always get better.

“Since we have such a young team, it’s really nice because every weekend I feel like we’re improving,” Hines said.

Wright mirrors his veteran goalie’s belief.

“The advantage of having a younger team is it’s going to improve at a faster rate,” he said. “A freshman with more concentrated work, especially with other good players and the amount of time you spend in college, is going to jump up at a faster rate than a senior.”

Second, a young team has nothing to lose.

“If there is some team you’re worried about in your conference, [the younger players] don’t know about it because they’re new,” Wright said. “They’re not intimidated by anything. They don’t know any better.”

It’s this type of outlook that has Wright excited as his team heads into the Big West Conference Tournament beginning Friday in Long Beach, Calif.

Wright’s anticipation for the conference championship, though, may be due more to the fact that the Big West is so even this year.

“Nobody is dramatically better,” Wright said. “For the most part, our conference is very balanced and it’s going to make for an exciting championship.”

While UC Davis is 1-4 in Big West action, the Aggies have played nine games against conference opponents. From what Wright has seen so far with the Aggies going 3-6 in those contests doesn’t leave the coach overly certain of his team’s chances.

He does say, however, that with the potential the Aggies have, there’s no telling how far they could go this weekend.

“I’m certainly not overly confident for conference,” Wright said. “But when I step back and try to be objective, I wouldn’t want to play us in the first game wherever we’re seeded. Whoever the other team is, is going to be like, ‘this is a difficult team to get by.'”

This is because despite UC Davis’ moderate record and close conference losses, the team is hitting its peak in the final week of the season, which is when it matters most.

“I feel like we’re getting there,” Wright said. “I think we’re peaking at the right time. I feel like they’re understanding their roles and they know what’s expected of them.”

Wright said he would love to win the Big West title this year. In fact, he gives his team just as good of a shot as last year’s squad that entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed.

However, according to Wright’s measure of a successful season, the Aggies have already accomplished a lot regardless of how they finish the season.

“I try to judge it by are we better players?'” Wright said. “Have we learned what we needed to learn? If you’ve done that, then you’ve succeeded.”

MAX ROSENBLUM wants to know how he’s doing this year. Drop him a line at sports@theaggie.org to let him know.

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