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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Column: What to play for

It’s the feeling athlete’s never wants to experience.

It’s a nightmare where you try to as hard as you can to wake up but you just can’t.

It’s realizing the fear of failing.

In every league of every sport in every country there can be only one winner – one team that never has to fall into the sinking pit of athletic rejection.

At UC Davis, two teams know this feeling all too well.

Both the football and women’s volleyball squads are mathematically eliminated from winning their divisions and hence, post-season play.

As a fan of teams that have been in this situation, it sucks. There’s no better way of saying it. As a player, it has to be unbearable and motivation can be hard to come by.

For the football team, however, inspiration entering the final game of the season is easy to find.

The Aggies match up against rival Sacramento State this Saturday. Even though UC Davis can’t win a Great West Conference title or qualify for the postseason, quarterback Randy Wright is having no trouble waking up.

“If you can’t get amped up for the rivalry games, then you’re in the wrong sport,” Wright said. “That should be all the motivation you need.”

The Aggies were obviously pumped up for their game Saturday against Cal Poly. A late rally capped by a touchdown pass from Wright to senior Sean Creadick with 35 seconds left gave UC Davis the thrilling 22-21 win.

The Aggies were sluggish in the first half, but found a second wind after the break. UC Davis played inspired football and never laid down to for the Mustangs.

With the rivalry games, Coach Bob Biggs has no problem getting the team motivated to play.

“Our motivation is to have a winning season and to beat Cal Poly,” Biggs said. “It doesn’t matter if we were both 0-10 at this point, it would still be the motivation to go beat them.”

The same day the Aggie football team was taking on the Mustangs on the gridiron, the UC Davis women’s volleyball team was squared up against Cal Poly.

The volleyball team has struggled of late, and Saturday’s match was no exception. UC Davis lost its fifth straight entering the final game of the year.

The Aggies were eliminated from winning the Big West Conference two weeks ago, but coach Jamie Holmes still believes the Aggies have plenty to play for.

“We’re playing for pride. We’re playing to have a winning record in conference play. We’re playing to finish as strong as we possibly can,” Holmes said. “And I don’t want to eliminate this – we’re playing for our seniors who have dedicated four years of their lives – their blood, sweat and tears – to success.”

“First and foremost, I hope we play for pride. We work hard and we definitely don’t want to be the dog that lies down and dies.”

As Holmes said, it all comes down to pride. Pride is what keeps a team going at full speed despite a 40- point or two-set deficit. It’s what forces a player to give it their all for the team despite a nagging injury.

Athletes are egotistical. They need to be. They need to have that cocky attitude to keep them going. They need that killer instinct.

It might sound shallow and I might be oversimplifying things. But that’s what you need to do in sports. Athletes need to keep the sport simple, and there’s nothing simpler than pride.

JASON ALPERT would like to congratulate the California High School Grizzlies, my alma mater, for their inspired performance against De La Salle High School Friday night. Cal was a successful onside kick away from being the first northern California team in nearly 20 years to top the nationally seventh ranked Spartans. To talk Aggie football, Aggie volleyball or Cal High football, e-mail me at sports@theaggie.org.


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