Saturday marked the end of the road for the UC Davis women’s volleyball team’s season. After suffering a tough home loss to the University of Hawai’i a week earlier, the team traveled to Pacific and completed their season sweep of the Tigers, winning the match 25-23, 25-14, 20-25, 25-15.
“To go into UOP where they have a steady home court advantage and win in four was a great way to end the season,” said head coach Jamie Holmes.
The Aggies improved their overall record to 17-14 and 11-7 in the Big West play including a 7-2 second-half run in their conference to finish out the year.
While they did not achieve their ultimate goal of making it to the NCAA tournament, the team did drastically improve their conference play, making it clear to all watching that this UC Davis program is on the rise.
Last season the Aggies finished with an impressive 21-10 record, but still recorded a disappointing 7-9 ledger when matched up with Big West opponents.
However, this year, the Aggies focused their attention on the Big West, dramatically improving to an above .500 conference record for the first time in two years. The team dropped only two games in the second half of the season, to top ranked University of Hawai’i and Long Beach State.
“One of our team goals was to win matches on the road and finish the season strong,” Holmes said. “It really shows good leadership within our group that we did win matches on the road and we did finish strong.”
UC Davis had several players that came out ready to prove themselves and earn an active role in the success of this team. The question was whether or not this group would perform well together.
It all started with the Aggies’ middle attack. Holmes was now sporting an offense with two sophomores — Katie Quinn and Victoria Lee — both of whom had never played a starting role at this level, putting a big question mark in the middle of the team’s offense.
However, Holmes’ gamble paid off big time as these two young talents hit the ground running and established themselves as one of the most dynamic and impressive middle attack tandems in the Big West.
“Our middle attack really anchored our team,” Holmes said. “Both our middles’ ability to hold blockers really opened up our outside and opposite attacks.”
The beauty of one or two individuals experiencing success at their position is that it opens up opportunities for their teammates.
Other players who took massive strides in improving their game include junior outside hitter Devon Damelio, sophomore outside hitter Valerie Brain, sophomore opposite hitter Mary Schroeder and junior setter Lindsay Dowd.
“I’m very excited for the future. Mary Schroeder has grown leaps and bounds. Devon Damelio, I imagine will be a huge performance leader for us next year and Lindsay Dowd improved a ton this season,” Holmes said. “What stands out in my mind is our middle department. Both middles showed in their first year of being starters that they are at the top half of the conference. That will be a real key position for us next year.”
No doubt several Aggies will develop their talent even further this off-season, and there is no denying that this year’s graduating seniors will leave a few holes that will need to be filled.
And so the hard work for the Aggies does not end here. After taking a couple months off, the team will get back to their routine. The players will go back to the weight room. The coaches will take to the drawing board and the writers and fans will wait eagerly for next season and another quest for the Big West crown.
— PK Hattis