Event: No. 13 UC Davis at No. 2 California; vs. No. 5 Pacific
Teams: Tigers, 8-4; Aggies, 11-4 (10-0)
Where: Spieker Aquatics Complex – Berkeley, Calif.
When: Saturday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Who to watch: Senior Aaron Salit will be looking to continue his hot scoring form from last season.
The Mill Valley, Calif. native led the Aggies with 49 goals and 116 shots last season, and will look to lead the squad again this season.
Did you know? Head coach Steve Doten will face his former team on Saturday. Doten played water polo for Cal, helping the team to a 91-14 record and two NCAA Titles during his three-year career.
Doten has also been friends with Cal coach Kirk Everist since high school, and the two were roommates when they played for the Golden Bears.
“We’ve always been competitive with each other,” Doten said, “and our long relationship makes the game extra competitive. I think it’s more than just another game.”
Preview: UC Davis’ schedule could not begin with a more difficult matchup. Not only is Cal ranked second in the nation, but the Golden Bears also defeated the Aggies 14-4 in last year’s season opener.
According to Doten, the key to changing that score-line begins with better ball-control.
“Cal plays a great pressure defense,” he said. “We can’t afford to turn the ball over and give them easy goals. We also need to slow down their dynamic offense. If the score gets too high we will struggle.”
Just six hours after opening their season against Cal, the Aggies will face another tough task against No. 5 Pacific. UC Davis will need excellent stamina to play its best in the second match of the day.
“Conditioning is paramount,” Doten said. “We’ve struggled at times to match the conditioning level of Pac-12 schools. This year I think the guys have come in better shape, and I think our preseason training has helped us get into game condition.”
Stamina will also come into play as the Aggies go through the grind of a 24-game regular season. If it can stay healthy, UC Davis hopes it finish its season at the site where it begins: Spieker Aquatics Complex on the Cal campus.
“Cal is hosting the National Championships in December,” Doten said. “I think starting the season where we hope to end it is significant.”
– Trevor Cramer