The season could not have begun any better for the UC Davis women’s volleyball team.
After losing its final six matches of the 2010 season, UC Davis is on fire as they kicked off the 2011 campaign. The Aggies have dominated opponents, winning 14 of their first 15 games and posting the best start in school history. The early-season hot-streak was highlighted by a first-place finish in the Northern Colorado Classic, a road victory against rival Sacramento State and a perfect 3-0 record as hosts of the Aggie Invitational.
Head coach Jamie Holmes credits her team’s offseason preparation for its in-season success.
“Our players worked extremely hard in the summer,” Holmes said. “They were dedicated enough to stay here in Davis and train hard in those few weeks we were able to practice together during the summer. That preseason preparation was critical.”
The Aggies needed the preparation to help the team fill the holes left by Kayla Varney and Melanie Adams, both of whom graduated after being strong contributors to the UC Davis program for the last few years. While the Aggies certainly miss having those two players around, they have found two new senior leaders, in the form of Betsy Sedlak and Katie Denny.
“Both of them are fantastic leaders,” Holmes said. “They are two of the best leaders I have seen in my 17 years of coaching. They’ve done wonders with a group of young players. Sedlak holds everyone to a high standard and Denny leads the team by example.”
Joining the senior duo as a key contributor for UC Davis is sophomore Jenny Woolway. The San Diego, Calif. native was named Player of the Tournament at the Northern Colorado Classic, and has proven her value to the team even in this early part of the season.
“[Woolway] has excellent vision on the volleyball court,” Holmes said. “She is very athletic and she reacts well to the ball. She is able to run down bad passes, and dig out balls that are deflecting at weird angles. She in an invaluable player for us.”
Woolway and her teammates also have the luxury of playing under a strong head coach. The UC Davis volleyball program went just 14-96 in the four years prior to the hiring of Holmes in 2006. Since that point the Aggies have improved every season, culminating in a 16-15 record last year.
While her coaching has helped UC Davis move from a perennial bottom-feeder to a program on the rise, Holmes is quick to point to those around her as the reason for the Aggies’ success.
“The key to UC Davis volleyball is the players that are here and the support that surrounds us,” Holmes said. “As a coach I can dream the big dreams and talk the big talk, but if the players don’t buy-in that doesn’t work. What works is bring in student athletes who have a vision for themselves, and want to work hard to reach what they’re dreaming of.”
With solid coaching and a group of players working to reach for their goals, UC Davis will be looking to improve their record yet again this season. Still, the Aggies don’t measure themselves strictly by wins and losses.
“I think our goal every year is to reach our full potential,” Holmes said. “That’s something we talk about a lot. We might not be the most gifted athletes, but what we can do is compete every day and reach our full potential. We want to be the best that we can be, and if that means we win a championship then that’s awesome.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.