Allyson Hansen is an essential cog in the machine that is UC Davis women’s water polo, a sport that churns out tough, stellar athletes on a consistent basis. The California Aggie was able to meet up with Hansen to converse about her goals, accomplishments and experiences while playing for the Aggies.
When was the first time you played water polo?
I started playing water polo when I was a freshman in high school.
What did you play before then?
Well, I started swimming when I was six, and then it was very natural, once you went to high school in my area, to just pick up water polo — because a lot of the swimmers would play water polo, a lot of the water polo players would do swimming, so it was just a natural fit. My older sisters had played it, so I thought I’d try it out once I got to high school.
What made you want to play for UC Davis?
It just felt very natural. I knew my junior year of high school that I wanted to come and play here. Davis seemed like a really good fit. I love the coaches, the team, the environment – just the town of Davis, and the academics and all that good stuff.
Last year you were given a Big West Honorable Mention because of some amazing statistics that you had [she led the team in goals (43), total points (64), shooting percentage (.453), kickouts drawn (63), 5-meter penalties drawn (9) and 6-on-5 goals (18)]. What was that like?
It was really cool. The year before last year I had redshirted because I had torn my ACL, so this was my first year back after my freshman year. So I really had no idea what to expect [and] it was definitely a pleasant surprise. Very honored.
So coming off that, what are your goals for the next few months?
Next few months? Well, we just started season, so we have a bunch of tournaments coming up in the upcoming weekends. This weekend [Feb. 7-8] we’re going to San Diego [for the Triton Invitational in La Jolla] and I think we are just trying to get our team cohesion on point, [because it is the] beginning of the season. [It’s the] first time a lot of us are playing together, [so we’re trying to get] a feel for one another, for each other. Yeah, we’re hoping to win some conference games and the goal of course [is] to win Big West at the end of the year and make it to [the] NCAA’s.
Pretty recently you played China, which is ranked second in the world. What was that like?
Yeah! That was pretty crazy. We actually got to play them twice and we were also able to play Brazil, but playing China — at first, I think a lot of us were kind of freaked out, like ‘Whoa, China, it’s kind of a big deal,’ but actually, as we were approaching the game, we met with a sports psychologist at Davis, Paul Salitsky, who works with a lot of the sports teams, and we [just] realized that this is an incredible opportunity.
How many other teams at UC Davis can say that they played a national team in their sport? So it was a very unique opportunity, very cool. I feel like the Chinese national team might have had more fans than us, just because there were more cheers when China would score, [but] it was cool to be a part of it. We exchanged gifts with them and it was cool to play against that international level. A lot of them were Olympians.
So, what are your plans for the coming years [after you graduate]?
The plan right now is to apply to occupational therapy school this upcoming year, and hopefully go right into that. But if I don’t get in, then I guess from there I’d like to travel. I want to hike the entirety of the John Muir Trail at some point; maybe try playing water polo internationally. We’ll see, I can’t play too far ahead. I still have options! Still trying to figure it out.
What’s been your best memory while playing?
Definitely just being on a team – a collegiate team – is just a very unique experience, just automatically having like 20 best friends. That was really cool… and I guess something really cool was last year we went to Hawai’i for the first time because Hawai’i got moved into our conference, so it was a really neat thing to spend four or five days in Hawai’i playing water polo. On our down time we got to go to the beach and went snorkeling, so that was really cool. Looking forward to going back [to Hawai’i] this year for conference, and then next year it’s our turn to go back there. [I’m] pretty stoked [about] the trips to Hawai’i.
What would you say that your biggest strength is in water polo?
Probably the fact that I’m left-handed. That helps me out a lot [because] most people are right-handed, so [it is] kinda advantageous to be left-handed [because] most people are used to guarding right-handed people, so I can trick people that way. It’s helpful to have lefties on your team to shoot from that side of the pool, the lefty side. And I guess my size – I’m six feet tall – so that size helps.
In my opinion, water polo is one of the most insane sports out there. I can’t even imagine what you guys have to go through every single day. What do you think that says about you, playing such an intense sport with such passion?
What does that say about me… I think it says that I’m really, hm, how do I word it? I guess I’m just really competitive and that I like the contact of water polo and the challenge it presents. Like you said, a lot of people don’t understand the intensity of water polo. I think it gets underrated sometimes or knocked down as not a hard sport, but if you can’t swim you can’t play water polo. I don’t think people realize that you’re treading water the entire game, passing and shooting a ball with one hand while you’re also trying to fight off another person that’s literally clawing you and grabbing at you. I think it says a lot that I like the contact, the physicality, the mental test and the physical test, and the challenge. It’s fun. It’s different. I like that it’s a different sport — not your typical sport. So, that’s me.
Graphic by CA Aggie Graphic Design Team