Not every great team wins a championship. Just ask any member of the 1997 or 1998 Utah Jazz. Sometimes great teams run into a juggernaut and simply fall short. This was the case for the UC Davis Women’s Water Polo Team this past weekend. They made it to the championship game of the Big West Conference Championship and lost to a monstrous UC Irvine team that will undoubtedly give MPSF champion UCLA a lot to consider at the NCAA Championship in a couple weeks. But that’s not to say that the Aggie Squad that finished second this weekend isn’t a great team. They don’t necessarily boast a squad of superstars; rather, they play as a cohesive unit whose strongest attribute is their outstanding senior leadership.
Guest opinion: Aggie Spirit
Of the four victories that preceded the loss to UCI, three were decided in the final seconds of the game by two goals or fewer. The first of these came on April 14 against UCSB when senior captain Alicia Began netted the game winner with just nine seconds remaining, after a Gaucho player fouled her beyond the 5-meter mark. A week later, on Picnic Day and Senior Day, two events that the Aggies have traditionally struggled on, another senior captain, Dakotah Sturla, put in a shot that went off the cross-bar to snatch an upset victory over San Jose State. And in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, once again battling UCSB, a third senior captain, Ariel Feeney, highlighted the stat sheet with two goals and three assists in a game that went to overtime. Senior Lindsay Sutterly scored the go-ahead goal that ultimately sent the Aggies to the championship game.
They are a team marked by resilience and character, and this can no doubt be attributed to head coach Jamey Wright and his assistants, Kandace Waldthaler and Larry Bercutt. The Aggies struggled at the beginning of the season, trying to find their identity and put marks in the win column. But by midseason, the Aggies certainly hit their stride. The aforementioned victories were born out of perseverance and hard work. They are the product of a team that has faith in its leaders and who have committed to one another. Rather than lament their loss this weekend, I hope they hold their heads high and are proud of what they accomplished this season. Watching them grow and improve over the season and then seeing the end product that competed this past weekend made me proud to be an Aggie for the first time since the sports cuts in 2010.
They may graduate a great deal of leadership, but the Aggies are ripe with young talent and will look to juniors like Rianne Woods, Carmen Eggert and Jessica Dunn to fill the shoes of the seniors who defined this season. I’d encourage them to remember the leaders of the 2012 season: their poise, their optimism, their work ethic, and to carry that into next season, to make it an expectation and a tradition for their program. It’s their turn to carry the torch and to set the standard for years to come.
Most importantly, they should know that they went above and beyond. They exceeded expectations. While only one team can win the championship, two great teams competed this weekend, and the UC Davis Women’s Water Polo team truly defined what I consider to be Aggie Spirit.