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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Kicking off on the right foot

Almost halfway through conference play, the UC Davis women’s soccer team has already surpassed their win total from 2019

In her third year at UC Davis, head coach Tracy Hamm and her women’s soccer team have enjoyed success early on. Already surpassing the win total from 2019, the Aggies have had their fair share of great results thus far. With a current record of 8-4, this young team has its eyes set on something bigger as they tread their way through conference play.  

“I think we’ve just been really consistent and tried to focus on establishing a winning mentality,” said Hamm. “With a young team, you really want to try and get as much experience on the field as possible and learn how to win games. So far we’ve done a good job.” 

Having had their 2020 season canceled due to COVID-19, their first game in almost two years came at the Las Vegas Invitational against the University of New Mexico on August 19 — a game in which they held onto a narrow 1-0 win. Their second game of the invitational was against the host UNLV, and despite falling in a 3-0 deficit, the Aggies clawed their way back to make it interesting, scoring two goals in the second half to cut into the Rebels’ lead. Unfortunately for UC Davis, they would come up just short, but the resounding takeaway was the grit of the young team — which consists of only three upperclassmen — to never quit. 

Coming home for their first games at Aggie Soccer Field, UC Davis took on New Mexico State on Aug. 27. After conceding an early penalty, the two teams went back and forth before a second goal put them away for good. On a quick turnaround just two days later, they hosted once again, this time against the University of Texas, El Paso. Jumping out to a 2-0 first half lead, the Miners from El Paso stormed back to tie the game. But, a late rebound and putback by freshman forward Emma Vane in the 80th minute gave the Aggies their second win of the season.

After a pair of road games against Boise State and Idaho State — games they split — they rapidly approached Big West Conference play. A home Causeway Classic against Sacramento State on Sept. 12 awaited them however, and as expected, the game was hard fought. After opening the scoring in the 35th minute, the Aggies held on to win against the rival Hornets, setting up their final non conference game in Moraga, CA against Saint Mary’s. In a game that saw Saint Mary’s take the lead in the first half, time was running out late for the Aggies. Yet, as they had shown time and time again, the upstart Aggies scored two goals in the final 16 minutes to flip the score and hold on to the big win. 

Entering the season ranked 8th in the Big West preseason coaches poll, not much was expected from UC Davis. After winning just two conference games in 2019, the program had not had a lot of success for a couple of seasons. Starting conference play on the road, their first test came against the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners in Bakersfield on Sept. 23. A pair of first half goals from Vane and sophomore scorer Leslie Fregoso proved to be all the Aggies needed, as they started conference play with a bang. Just a few days later, UC Davis went into Northridge to face Cal State Northridge. After a scoreless first half, the second saw a goal scoring barrage from both sides. Although Northridge made two, the Aggies responded with four of their own, winning by a final score of 4-2.

The conference home opener came against a powerful Big West opponent, the Santa Barbara Gauchos — who were tied for third in the preseason poll. Regulation proved to not be enough for these two, as they moved to overtime in a back and forth matchup. But, the Gauchos capitalized a little over midway through the first overtime with a powerful shot that made its way in, spoiling the Aggies’ home opener. 

Although the loss stung, the team had no time to dwell on it, as they hosted the leader of the conference, the Cal Poly Mustangs. Once again, Aggies pounced on the opponent in the first half and kept that momentum going, as a brace by sophomore Risa Yamada gave them a 2-0 shutout win, putting them tied for 2nd in the conference table, only behind the favorites Long Beach State. 

With six games remaining before the conference tournament, UC Davis has their work cut out for them if they want to make their first postseason in the Tracy Hamm era. The team will travel to Southern California to play away games against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside, on Oct. 7 and 10 respectively. From there, they will come back home to Davis to play the leader in the Big West Long Beach. In the highly anticipated matchup, the home field advantage factor could be the determining factor in this game between highly ranked teams. On Oct. 17, the team will once again visit Southern California as they will play in Irvine against UC Irvine, before returning home and finishing the regular season against Hawai’i and UC San Diego on Oct. 21 and 28 respectively.

“At this point in the season, it’s not really about tweaking anything, it’s about trying to get injured players back on the field and staying healthy,” said Hamm. “We’ve had to move a lot of players around and look at different tactics based on injuries. Just trying to make sure we stay as healthy as possible and get as much rest as we can.”

Looking to get back into the Big West Tournament for the first time since 2018, this Aggies team has new life that has propelled them to their success thus far. As a young team, they are continuing to build confidence as the season progresses, and with the hope of key players returning from injury, their hopes to make a deep run could come to fruition. Yet and still, the Big West is once again proving to be one of the better conferences, and the Aggies will need to continue to improve in their final six games in order to have a chance. 

Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org


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