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Monday, October 18, 2021

Women’s team of the quarter: water polo

ZHEN LU / AGGIE
ZHEN LU / AGGIE

Women’s water polo exceeds expectations, doesn’t let end result bring them down

The California Aggie sat down with members of the women’s water polo team to discuss what made this the season they won’t forget, and why they are The Aggie’s choice for women’s team of the quarter.

“Even though it didn’t necessarily end as we had envisioned it, we don’t want the end result to overshadow all the things we did this season,” said senior center Allyson Hansen. “Like beating Cal for the first time in program history, top three finish at UC San Diego tournament, top six finish at UC Irvine — which we haven’t done for a long time — and getting our program’s 400th win.”

Hansen, a fifth year who was nervous about coming into the season without the players she initially came into the program with, started the Aggies this season in Big West Conference weekly honors with a Player of the Week award — the first of five UC Davis athletes this season. Despite having a 2-3 conference record, the Aggies did manage an overall record of 17-13, with some heartbreaking losses that followed tremendous wins.

“With every struggle comes growth,” said head coach Jamey Wright. “We had some character developing moments this year […] this is all part of the process, we’ve got to go through this.”

Wright refers to the defeat over Cal Berkeley and the comeback against Irvine.

“You learn more from your losses than your wins,” Wright said. “For having had some early disappointing conference losses, we finished well.”

Hansen knows that the losses did not affect the team’s bond.

“The experience and wisdom of the older players helped cultivate a whole cohesive team… we have team chemistry,” Hansen said. “This year, instead of being on the losing side of one-goal games, we have been on the winning side, which I think in the past hasn’t really happened […] When it boils down to it, the chemistry is what got us those wins.”

“This year, we had a lot of strong players so we were able to use all of the weapons we had versus relying on one or two players,” said junior center Carla Tocchini. “[That] is what a lot of teams normally do, to give everybody a chance to kind of shine.”

But what really makes the Aggies a strong team?

“One of the biggest things that we possess is a solid defense,” Tocchini said. “Our goalies were fantastic at anchoring us in the cage, all of our offense and everything we created came out of our tough defense and our defenders really fronting well. Everyone was doing their job on defence essentially, so I think, if we can carry that into next season, we will do very well for ourselves.”

Next season, the Aggies will be facing a lot of turnover as they say goodbye to seven seniors and welcome nine freshmen to the program. This will make the 2016-17 team predominantly underclassmen.

“I’d like to think of it as a really positive opportunity,” Tocchini said.  “Yes, it is a big group of girls that are going to have to learn a ton of new stuff coming into the program, but it also gives our team a whole new look.”

Wright also notices the toll this change will take on the team, but like Tocchini, does not fear it.

“It’s not always easy, especially when you have a big turnover, losing that leadership,” Wright said. “It puts a lot of pressure on the returning juniors this year.”

While the shift in players does not affect Hansen directly, she definitely connects with the idea of stepping up.

“That’s going to be a huge shift,” Hansen said. “I think for next year, they are really going to have to bond the freshmen in. The upperclassmen are going to have to step up; people besides the captains are going to have to step up.”

In attempt to pass down some of her knowledge, Hansen said, “If I learned anything these years, it’s to trust the process. You’ve got to be patient, [and] it all will come together at some point.”

The team was ranked fifth nationally this spring season and managed to maintain a 3.15 overall GPA. Coaching staff as well as the players agree that next season they will be working to integrate the recruits to continue and enhance this season’s success.

“I could think of a bunch of words [to describe the season], but I think the first word that comes to mind is ‘epic,’” Hansen said. “That’s kind of how it was. I never in a million years would’ve thought we would have beat Cal or beaten ASU or been in the top five […]  it’s stuff that I thought was unreachable or unobtainable. It’s pretty epic that we were able to pull together and do it.”

 

Honorable Mention: Women’s Lacrosse

If one thing is certain, it is that UC Davis women’s lacrosse has made amazing progress this season. Under first-year coach Tee Ladouceur, the Aggies’ 5-4 conference record is the first winning record produced by women’s lacrosse since 2000, and their appearance in the MPSF Championship tournament this season was their first appearance in six years. While this was a season for improvement, women’s lacrosse has shown tremendous strides to become a conference winning team in the future under Ladouceur.

 

Written by: Veronica Vargo and Ryan Bugsch — sports@theaggie.org

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