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Saturday, July 20, 2024

UC Davis Lacrosse’s Grace Richards

Senior goalkeeper talks team and changing positions

Change can often feel uncomfortable and arrive unexpectedly. For the UC Davis lacrosse starting goalkeeper Grace Richards, change has been a big part of her time on the team. She arrived as an attacker from Bel Air, Md., a popular lacrosse city where she played from a young age.

“I started playing lacrosse in first grade, and I was always an attacker,” Richards said. “That’s what I always thought I would be.”

In her freshman year, Richards appeared in nine games, scored three goals and recorded two assists. In her sophomore season, however, the team’s lack of personnel led Richards to change into a position she had never played before.

“We had one goalie, and she was amazing,” Richards said. “But she didn’t have a backup. So they were worried that if something happened, they wouldn’t have someone to step in. So, they needed to train somebody to be able to hop in if it was necessary and that happened to be me.”

Over the course of a few weeks, the Aggies’ Goalie Coach Emi Smith, a former All-American goalkeeper at Penn State, trained Richards and taught her everything she needed to know about the position.

“After that, I kind of just hopped into drills and tried to stay as positive as humanly possible because you’re not going to be great right away,” Richards said.

As she went along with the transition, she not only had the help of her coach but also her brother, who was a collegiate lacrosse goalkeeper as well. She called him before every game and asked him about the mental aspects of playing in front of the goal.

“When the game is on the line and things happen, you have to take everything shot by shot rather than thinking about past plays or things that happened,” Richards said. “That’s mainly what I would ask him about. Like how you deal with the pressure and needing to perform at the best of your ability when people are expecting you to. The mental aspect was really hard for me at first. I am a positive person, but I am also a perfectionist which is hard to deal with because goals are going to happen. It’s a high scoring game and a lot happens throughout. It’s still something I have to work on.”

Richards guarded the net in 12 games and had a save percentage of .435 her sophomore season. She was also included in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s All-Academic squad.

Her junior season saw her start 14 games in front of the net, earning her MPSF Defensive Player of the Week three times. Her save average improved to .459, and she recorded 16 saves in the MPSF title game. She was once again named in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation All-Academic squad.

The transition to goalkeeper has given Richards confidence and a new outlook, not only as a player, but as a person as well.

“[The transition] has given me the power to be able to look at things in a positive light that may not be positive or taking something and thinking, ‘what could I have done better?’ Richards said. “It’s made me more accountable as an athlete, as a person, as a student and I think that that’s the biggest thing this role change has given me, and I couldn’t thank anybody more. My goalie coach Emi Smith, my Head Coach Suzanne Isidor and [my assistant coach Ashley Johnson], they’ve been so great in teaching me how to deal with it and being patient when I need it.”

Now in her senior season, Richards has started all seven games for the Aggies thus far. UC Davis is currently 3-4. After winning their season opener on Feb. 8, the Aggies also beat Mercer 16-13 on Feb. 17 and Oregon 15-12 on March 2, but lost a tough one to nationally ranked Stanford on Feb. 24.

Optimistic and excited about this season so far and going forward, Richards describes this team as having strengths at every position. Her goal for this season is clear: Win the conference.

“We’re in a small but mighty conference with San Diego State and Fresno State, two of our biggest rivals,” Richards said. “We lost [the MPSF championship] in overtime last year which kind of burned for a while understandably. I think that winning that conference would be so great, and the fact that it’s here in Davis is going to be even greater.”

Even though the transition took place a little over two years ago, Richards hopes to keep improving as a goalkeeper and keep being the trustworthy player her team needs.

The next game for the Aggies is at home tomorrow versus Central Michigan. The rest of the season is highlighted by games against Georgetown and Fresno State on the road, before finishing off the season at home against rival San Diego State.

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org


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