They say big things come in small packages.
This is certainly true of UC Davis forward Nadia Namdari.
The 5’2″ sophomore leads the Aggies with seven goals this season and is tied for the team lead with six assists.
Namdari took time after her team’s Halloween-themed costume practice to talk to California Aggie sports writer Trevor Cramer about the team’s emotional bond, her ability to crack through defenses, and the way the UC Davis field hockey program has grown over the past year.
I see the team all dressed up for Halloween. How do events like tonight’s costume practice help keep the team loose?
Things tend to get pretty serious, especially now toward the end of the season. Practices like this are just a reminder that we’re out here to have fun. We get the chance to goof around, but we’re still working hard with our teammates.
It seems having fun together has helped your team build strong chemistry. Do you guys maintain this bond off the field as well?
Definitely. We’re like a family. We all live close together in Davis and we’re all from California so we are able to visit each other on breaks.
Being like a family, is there one person who takes control as a leader of the team?
Well we have our three captains: Lindsey [Valadez], Casey [Wollbrink], and Kristen [Lopez]. We look up to all of them, but the great part of this team is that we’re basically all the same age so we can all take control and say something if we want to.
That leadership must have played a role in the way you responded to two overtime NorPac Conference losses at home to California and Stanford. How did the team feel after those two close games?
It was stressful because we’d been right there and we knew we could do it. At the same time though, we could look at the scores and see how close we’d come to beating some really good teams. It showed us that it is doable.
After those two overtime losses, what was it like to go to overtime in a third straight home game against Pacific?
Well, no one ever likes overtime, because it’s a big field when you’re down to seven players, but we felt confident. We just knew the sooner we scored the sooner we could get off the field.
How did it feel to get the first NorPac victory in school history in that game?
It felt amazing to finally get that win in our third overtime game at home. We’d been working really hard on our overtime play and it showed.
That victory showed the team’s huge improvements over the last year. What has been the key to the team’s growth this season?
It all started in the offseason. We did great work in the spring and the winter. It was big because we were almost all freshmen last year and going against all of these juniors and seniors, we were a little shocked. I feel like this year we’ve learned to manage things better and get into our groove.
Part of your team’s progress has been your improvement over the past year. What has been the most important part of your growth over this season?
Mainly it’s a confidence thing. As a freshman I think I was a little shell-shocked by the way the other teams played. During the spring I worked on a lot of my skills and I think that’s really helped me this year.
Coach Vianney Campos has said if the Aggies need a goal, you’re the go-to person. How does it feel to hold that responsibility?
I like being the one everyone looks to when we need to score. It’s a good feeling. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s nice to know that my teammates trust me to put the ball in the cage and at the same time, I trust them to tip it in if I miss a shot.
You seem to be able to get behind defenses at will. How are you able to do that so easily?
I like to think that I’m sneaky, [laughs] but [Campos] would probably say it’s because I’m cherry-picking and not getting back on defense all the time, which is true sometimes.
With the way you and your team have both improved this year, the future is looking bright. Where do you think you’ll be as a team by the time you’re a senior?
By that point our team will be mostly all seniors. With all of that experience and the skill we have on our team I think that we will be really good.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.