Teams: UC Davis vs. UC Riverside; vs. UC Irvine
Records: Aggies 18-7 (7-5); Highlanders 14-11 (7-5); Anteaters 14-11 (6-7)
Where: The Pavilion
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m.
Who to watch: UC Davis prides itself on its defense, and its best defensive player may be junior Samantha Meggison.
The Orange, Calif. native leads the Aggies with 48 steals this season.
Did you know? This season, UC Irvine has begun to employ the 2-1-2 zone defense that UC Davis has used to confuse Big West Conference opponents for years.
While the schemes may be the same, senior Paige Mintun believes the Aggies still have the upper hand on the defensive end.
“It’s like a matchup between a teacher and a student,” she said. “It’s an experience type of defense that you learn with time.”
Preview: UC Davis begins a key week in its conference season with a matchup against UC Riverside.
The Aggies are all too familiar with the Highlanders.
UC Riverside defeated UC Davis in the Big West Championship game last season, and again in their matchup earlier this year.
If the Aggies are to win this time around, it will likely be due to the way the coaching staff modifies the team’s strategy throughout the contest.
“When we face UC Riverside, we make more in-game adjustments than in any other game,” said coach Sandy Simpson. “It seems like every timeout we’re making changes.”
UC Davis will then move on to face UC Irvine, and it may be catching the Anteaters at the perfect time.
UC Irvine star and Big West scoring leader Mikah Maly-Karros has missed her team’s last three games for undisclosed reasons. While there is no guarantee that Maly-Karros will not play on Saturday, Barry Faulkner of the Los Angeles Times has reported that a source inside the UC Irvine program said Maly-Karros may not return for the remainder of the season.
Whether or not the Anteaters have their star on the floor, UC Davis will be looking for a big win to lock down a first-round home game in the conference tournament. The top four teams in the Big West host the tourney’s initial round and the Aggies currently sit in the fourth position – a game and a half ahead of fifth-place UC Irvine.
Although UC Davis wants a home contest in order to have an advantage, the motivation runs deeper than that for Mintun.
“It would be great for us to start the tournament at home,” Mintun said. “I really want that for coach Simpson and for the fans. It would be great to have that experience.”
– Trevor Cramer