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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Column: Winter seesaw

It’s been a bizarre winter when it comes to UC Davis sports.

It is hard to remember a time in my short few years in Davis that there have been so many ups and downs over just a few short months.

Just when you thought you knew what you had with one team, it seemed like you got something completely unexpected.

Let’s start with men’s basketball.

The year was characterized by an unprecedented losing streak that spanned multiple months and brought UC Davis into dead last in the national RPI. But when the streak finally ended, it seemed truly possible that the team would turn things around.

The Aggies followed their first win of the year with two more wins in the next three, and it looked like the Aggies had finally figured things out.

And then, just when we thought they had turned the corner, UC Davis reminded us that it still had a long way to go.

The Aggies dropped their final three games, including an inexcusable 47-point loss to UC Santa Barbara.

But even with the tough finish, the future still looks bright for UC Davis — certainly a lot better than it did this time last year. The team has a strong core of young players, and will return Ryan Howley and Ryan Sypkens from injury next season. With only one senior starter graduating, the Aggies can expect an interesting 2012-13 season.

On the other side, UC Davis women’s basketball looks like it might be headed in the opposite direction.

After a few years at the top of the Big West Conference, it looks like the Aggies might be heading for a down year in 2012-13.

Yes the team had a very strong regular season, but ending the season with three disappointing losses was not the way it wanted to go out.

And though the Aggies will be returning key pieces like juniors Blair Shinoda, Hannah Stephens and Cortney French, they are losing four senior starters (Hana Asano, Lauren Juric, Samantha Meggison and Kasey Riecks) who rank among the best players UC Davis has seen in recent years.

While we saw this season that anyone can make a run in the Big West Tournament (six-seed UC Santa Barbara won the tournament title), it is hard to envision the Aggies bouncing back next season to finish atop the conference.

Swimming and diving faces an interesting situation as well.

The Aggies will certainly be losing some key performers, but with some young talent filling out the squad, it looks like the team could continue to put forth strong performances.

The Aggies will lose several key performers this season — notably The California Aggie’s Athlete of the Quarter Kayleigh Foley — but the class also returns sophomore Liliana Alvarez, who has qualified for the NCAA National Championships during her first two seasons with the team and should only improve over her final two years at UC Davis.

Beyond that, 25 of the 38 swimmers and divers that fill out the Aggie roster are underclassmen, so even with a few key losses, it looks like the Aggies could still be on the way up.

For gymnastics, the future looks very bright.

It is true that 2011-12 has been an up-and-down year for them.

The team has been inconsistent at times, and has been forced to count too many falls at certain meets this year, but if the team can put everything together next season, it could be a force to be reckoned with.

The team is losing seniors Lauren Eller and Erika Van Dyke, but the emergence of some young talent should help the Aggie move forward.

The performances of freshmen Tiana Montell and Kayle DeFrancesco have helped the team this season, and the young gymnasts should continue to improve as they gain experience.

Add to that the veteran presence of next year’s senior class of Michelle Ho, Lauren Houseman, Taryn West and Katie Yamamura (who has been named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Gymnast of the Week six times this season), and you have a group poised for an excellent season.

And a strong finish at the MPSF Championship meet at the Pavilion Saturday could be the spark that gives this team momentum heading into 2012-13.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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