Event: Utah Classic; UC Davis at Utah; at Utah State
Where: Crimson Court; Dee Glen Smith Spectrum
When: Friday at 6 p.m.; Saturday at noon
Who to watch: Senior Kayla Varney is looking to improve on an already stellar career.
The outside hitter averaged 3.33 digs per game last season, good for 10th best in the Big West Conference.
Coach Jamie Holmes is looking for the Murietta, Calif. native to be the Aggies’ defense.
“I’m looking for Kayla to anchor our defense this year,” Holmes said. “It’s good to keep her in the system as she was one of the top digging players in the conference last year.”
Did you know? The Relative Power Index, or RPI, is very important to the Aggies this season as it is one of the biggest determinants for postseason play. When Holmes became the Aggies’ head coach three years ago, UC Davis’ RPI was in the upper 200s. Entering the 2010 campaign, the Aggies’ RPI is 97, an almost 200 place leap. This RPI jump was one of the largest over a three-year period for the entire country.
Preview: Holmes wants to go onto the NCAA Tournament this year, and she feels this could be the team to do so.
The Aggies will return 10 players to Hickey gym this year, including senior outside hitter Melanie Adams and Varney. It’s the new players, however, that get Holmes excited about this year’s squad.
“Our young players are intent on learning and are very coachable,” Holmes said. “It’s a very athletic group that can hit hard and jump high. We had some great additions and that’s what I’m really thrilled about.”
Holmes also said this year’s freshmen have been able to fit right into the Aggies both on the court and off.
“The team chemistry this year is excellent,” Holmes said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else. This has got to be one of the neatest group of girls I’ve ever coached.”
Holmes said team chemistry is one of the pieces to the puzzle, but it’s not the only. Holmes wants the Aggies to “out-team” their opponents this year.
“Out-teaming means fighting together as a unit,” she said. “I want the players on the court to feel supported even when they’re not playing.
“When the game is on the line, I want them to come together and fight together.”
UC Davis opens up the season on the road as the Aggies travel to Utah to take part in the Utah Classic. UC Davis will play Utah and Utah St. on consecutive days this weekend.
The Utes enter the game on Friday ranked in the top 25 in the nation, but Holmes isn’t afraid of the challenge.
“This is a big game for us,” Holmes said. “How we play against Utah can definitely have an effect on whether we qualify for the NCAA Tournament.”
While the Utah St. Aggies aren’t as much of a powerhouse as the Utes, Holmes wants to make sure UC Davis doesn’t take them lightly.
“Utah St. is a solid program,” Holmes said. “Because Utah St.’s RPI is lower than ours, a loss to them can really hurt our post season hopes. As long as we play like we practice, do what we need to do in shot selection and serve tough, the winning will take care of itself.”
– Jason Alpert