If you spend some time with the UC Davis field hockey team you will hear a lot of talk about teamwork and improvement.
In just their second year as an NCAA program the Aggies have already built a strong team philosophy.
The Aggies tested their mental toughness early as they faced Miami of Ohio in their first game of the year.
UC Davis fell behind 2-0 in the first seven minutes of the game, but the Aggies were resilient and were able to tie the game at two early in the second half.
Miami, however, scored two more goals to close out the game, and the Aggies lost 4-2.
UC Davis dropped their second game of the year as well, losing 3-1 on the road against No. 20 Stanford.
The Aggies were out shot 25-3 in the game, and UC Davis goalkeeper Lauren Sawvelle recorded a career-high 16 saves.
Although UC Davis lost, they made vast improvements over their 11-1 loss at Stanford last season.
“We played Stanford a few times in the spring,” coach Vianney Campos said. “I think that gave us a confidence boost. We came into the game this year with a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t want another 11-1 loss.”
Unfortunately UC Davis wasn’t able to carry this confidence into its next match at California. The Aggies lost 5-1, moving their record to 0-3.
The Aggies were down 1-0 at half, but a 37th minute goal from UC Davis sophomore Marissa Hughes tied the game.
From that point on it was all Golden Bears as California scored four unanswered goals to close out the game.
Despite the slow start to the season, the Aggies kept their heads held high.
“We never have the mentality of giving up and quitting,” Campos said. “We know we can play with anyone.”
UC Davis turned things around on their three game road trip to Missouri.
The first matchup was a thrilling double-overtime victory against Missouri State.
UC Davis came out of the gates slowly, and fell down by a goal early.
“Things couldn’t have started much worse,” Campos said. “We started timid.”
The Aggies mad their way back into the game as sophomore Nadia Namdari leveled the game in the 14th minute.
The game remained tied through the rest of regulation and one overtime period.
Finally in the 99th minute the Aggies broke through when sophomore Amanda Marinac took a pass from teammate Lydia Brambila and put it in the back of the net to end the game.
The goal was a huge moment in the early parts of UC Davis’ season.
“It gave us a great feeling,” Namdari said. “We saw all of our hard work pay off.”
“It was a huge confidence boost,” Campos said. “It gave us momentum for the road trip.”
The Aggies kept the momentum rolling as they defeated St. Louis by the score of 2-0.
The teams were scoreless through the first half, but goals by Namdari and sophomore Lindsey Valadez put UC Davis ahead, and the Aggie defense was able to hold a shutout.
UC Davis knew that the game was won largely in the preparation.
“Before the game we watched video and picked out what we’d been doing well,” Campos said. “It was one of the reasons we dominated St. Louis.”
UC Davis finished the road trip on a strong note, posting another shutout by beating Central Michigan 3-0 in Fenton, Mo.
Valadez, sophomore Emily Mecke and freshman Cloey LemMon each found the back of the net.
The victory put the Aggies’ record at 3-0 in Missouri and 3-3 for the season.
The three game winning streak has raised UC Davis’ confidence.
“The three teams we beat were solid teams,” Campos said. “We feel like we can compete with anybody.”
And the team has seen encouraging improvements.
“We know that we’ve gotten better and it’s shown,” Namdari said.
Now the Aggies will get a chance to finally play some games at home.
UC Davis will get chances to redeem itself against conference foes California and Stanford. The Aggies believe that playing in Aggie Stadium could be key.
“The biggest thing coming up for us is the home-field advantage,” Campos said. “Most teams don’t play on this type of surface and it will be difficult to adjust to the way the ball bounces. We should be able to dominate the possession. We’ll be well prepared.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.