The time is now for UC Davis women’s soccer.
After posting a record of 7-9-2 last season, the Aggies are prepared to take a big step forward in 2011.
One of the team’s main reasons for optimism is the strong class of returning players. Samantha Faber was the only Aggie lost to graduation during the offseason. While Faber will certainly be missed, coach MaryClaire Robinson believes the group of veterans she brings back will be more than capable of taking care of business.
“[Returning a lot of players] will be a huge benefit,” Robinson said. “We have a big group of seniors who have affected the program in a positive way. They’ve provided a lot of great leadership.”
Possibly the most valuable of the Aggies’ seven seniors is defender Aisha Lott.
The Milpitas, Calif. native was one of just six players to start every game for UC Davis last season. While Lott failed to find the net last season, her value extends far beyond the stat-sheet.
“She makes what we’re doing better, whether it’s in training or in a game,” Robinson said. “She’s competitive and very gifted athletically. She raises the level of the whole team.”
Lott was UC Davis’ only first-team Big West Conference selection last season.
Alongside the Aggies veteran group are some underclassmen that gained valuable experience last season.
Sophomore Kiele Argente will be looking to improve on a strong freshman season in which she scored two goals and led the team with five assists. Fellow sophomores Kristin Holmberg and Mary Beth Mazurek both started all 18 games last year, and will look to be key pieces again in 2011.
“Our young players got a lot of playing time last year,” Robinson said. “With the leadership they have around them they’re going to keep getting better, and I think they can really help us this year.”
With that extra year of experience, the Aggies’ underclassmen could help the team win close games and finish above .500 this season.
Six of UC Davis’ nine loses last year came by a single goal. Robinson thinks the Aggies can turn this around by performing better down the stretch of games.
“Ninety minutes is a long time, and we need to make sure we play at a high level the whole way through,” Robinson said. “We lost some games [on late goals] last year, and we need to do better closing out games.”
If the Aggies do better late in contests, they could have a chance to take a top-four spot in the Big West and make the conference playoffs.
“We need to compete in every game,” Robinson said. “I think we’re in a place where we can get out of the bottom half of the conference become one of the top-four teams [in the Big West]. We’re headed in a good direction and it will be fun to see what we can accomplish this year.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.