Event: Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championship
Where: Sullivan Aquatics Center – Santa Clara, Calif.
When: Friday to Sunday, all day
Who to watch: Sophomore Colin Hicks has steadily become one of the more reliable players on the team.
In his last seven games, the Irvine, Calif. native has averaged more than 30 minutes in the pool, showcasing his endurance, awareness and ability to step up in big games.
“He’s a very smart kid,” said coach Steve Doten. “He understands the concept of advantage and when we have an edge. He never gets intimidated and likes the big games due to his past [two high school national championships].”
Did you know? The Aggies will enter the tournament with some hardware and prestigious awards.
Coach Doten was named the WWPA co-coach of the year. Senior Carlos Martinez and junior Aaron Salit were named to the first team all-conference.
For Doten and Martinez, these honors are the second of their careers. In 2007, Doten coached an Aggie team that would go on to lose to Loyola Marymount in the title match of the WWPA tournament.
Additionally, Hicks’ play was recognized with a WWPA-honorable mention while freshman center Teddy Nicholson earned a spot on the all-conference freshman team.
Preview: If defense really wins championships, the Aggies have a good chance of getting one this weekend.
UC Davis has relied on its defense all season, and Doten believes it and some strong fundamentals can carry the Aggies to a title.
“If we can hold down [our opponents], we’ll be in every game,” Doten said. “We’re well-conditioned and have a lot of team speed.”
Though defense may ultimately win championships, UC Davis knows it has to score.
Recently, the offense has stalled as opponents have forced the Aggie perimeter shooters to make tough shots. Still, Doten gives his perimeter shooters the green light.
“In water polo, you beat the goalie by shooting off the pass,” Doten said. “It’s not about faking the shot 20 times and then beating the goalie one on one. It’s a team game. If we can set up the goalie and make a pass [to the other side of the pool], the next guy has the green light – no doubt about it.”
Because of its strong regular season play, UC Davis has a first round bye at this weekend’s tournament. The Aggies will match up with the winner of the Chapman-Air Force matchup Friday afternoon at 2:20 pm.
– Matt Wang