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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Cuenin leaves her mark on UC Davis

Three-year captain wraps up her UC Davis women’s lacrosse career

The UC Davis women’s lacrosse team concluded its 2018-19 season with a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) championship game appearance and a 9-8 overall record, including a 4-2 record at home. Despite losing in the final match and finishing on a not-so-pleasant note, the team was not without its bright spots.

Perhaps the team’s best story coming out of this season was senior attacker Taylor Cuenin. The Danville, CA native and three-year captain for the Aggies was named MPSF Player of the Year for the second straight season. Cuenin was not only a force on offense who led the team in goals (48), but she also led the conference in caused turnovers per game (1.27). She also ranked third in points per game (3.40) and ninth in ground balls per game (1.87). Her versatility allowed her to be a major threat on both ends of the field.

“It is really exciting, and it has been a great four years,” Cuenin said. “I have been super lucky to have such a successful career, and I think a lot of it came from how I was coached the past two years and changed a lot of the way I played this past year.”

Cuenin started playing lacrosse more heavily her freshman year at San Ramon Valley High School where her experience on the junior varsity team helped her grow more as a player. Cuenin emphasized how her time on the JV squad helped her realize her love for the game. She honed her lacrosse skills for the remainder of her high school years, playing and serving as captain for her school’s varsity team, as well as playing on a local travel club team, competing across the country in numerous tournaments.

Despite the extent of playing experience, Cuenin was not highly recruited out of high school, so she said she made a point to attend UC Davis’ off-season lacrosse camp.

“I started a little later and wasn’t heavily recruited anywhere,” she said. “I didn’t really know how to do the recruiting process itself, and as far as going to camps, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go.”

Luckily for the Aggies, Cuenin had a friend who attended UC Davis and who played a large role in influencing Cuenin’s decision to ultimately choose to become an Aggie. Cuenin also noted that the university’s reputation for academic success was a main factor in her decision. UC Davis, therefore, was her top choice both academically and for lacrosse.

As a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, finding a balance between working hard in the classroom and on the lacrosse field was important to Cuenin from the outset of her time at UC Davis. She not only found a balance, but she excelled at both endeavors. Cuenin was recently inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society this Spring, thanking lacrosse for being a big release from her intense academic coursework.

“I think because I never had to do school without lacrosse, it was a good thing because it structured my life so much and made me really disciplined in my school and knowing that I always have to be a week ahead for everything.”

In 2016, Cuenin was awarded all-MPSF second team and became the first UC Davis lacrosse player since 2013 to earn all-conference honors as a freshman. During that season, Cuenin was also awarded MPSF Rookie of the Week and led the Aggies with 19 caused turnovers.

The following season, Cuenin earned an upgrade to the all-MPSF first team and led the Aggies in goals (42), total points (53), ground balls (52) and caused turnovers (51). She also ranked second in the nation with 3.4 caused turnovers per game.  

After leading the team in goals (38), points (41) and caused turnovers (23) for the second straight season during her junior year, Cuenin earned multiple MPSF Player of the Week honors and secured her first MPSF Player of the Year award

Entering this season, Cuenin was a player on the radar of every team that competed against the Aggies. She was also on pace to finish in the top three in program history in goals. But after she suffered a serious ankle injury at the beginning of senior year, Cuenin was forced to make some unforeseen changes to her game.

“I had to learn how to adjust my play,” Cuenin said. “I got moved from being a midfielder — which I was my whole career — to an attacker, which was pretty different because it is hard for me to not want to run everywhere on the field. But everyone was so supportive and so awesome. We all kind of worked through it together.”

In lacrosse, attackers can only play one third of the field, while midfielders are allowed to run up and down the entire length of the field. When she moved to an attacking role, Cuenin was able to capitalize on her scoring abilities without needing to cover as much ground and exacerbate her injury. The senior attacker shifted her play to a more two-dimensional game, thanks in part to her Head Coach Suzanne Isidor, who Cuenin believes taught her how to work more closely with her teammates. This directly resulted in more of her goals coming off of assists from her teammates, as opposed to goals that she scored via her own attacking runs.

This change, however, did not set her back. Cuenin led the conference and finished 29th nationally in goals per game, with 3.2. Switching her position meant learning how to change her style, and she thanks Isidor for her guidance in this process.

“For me, [Isidor] helped me change my level of play and made me progress as a player and [become] more diverse and play selflessly and work with my teammates,” Cuenin said.  

Isidor took over the program in the 2017-18 season during Cuenin’s junior year.

“The level of maturity [Isidor] brought to the program was huge, [as was] her ability to recognize and care for each player on a personal level as well as athletically.”

Along with praising Isidor, Cuenin thanked her teammates and believed much of her team’s success was due to the fact that the members were so close with one another.

“A lot of teams don’t have the bonds we do on our team,” Cuenin explained. “That has made it really fun. It’s a good mixture of working hard and getting to have fun.”

Cuenin capped off her UC Davis career tied for second in school history in goals (151), tied for sixth in points (171), and alone at second in caused turnovers (112).

After graduation, Cuenin plans to work toward becoming a Physician’s Assistant and attending PA school. She is grateful to continue her studies nearby at Sacramento State this summer because it means that she will still be close to the people that matter to her most: her UC Davis women’s lacrosse teammates.

Written by: Frankie Veverka — sports@theaggie.org


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