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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Recap of UC Davis’s women’s water polo 2023 Season

The Aggies had an up and down season losing to UC San Diego in the closing seconds of the Big West Conference quarterfinals


By ELOISE ENGS — sports@theaggie.org


The UC Davis women’s water polo team wrapped up their 2023 season at the Big West Conference Tournament on April 28. They finished with an overall record of 15-14 with a national ranking of 11th. Their preseason games played a lot into their competitiveness going into the regular season. Let’s recap their progress throughout the season game by game.

Their first tournament of the season was hosted by UC Berkeley, where the Aggies completed four games against a variety of non conference opponents — these tournaments are set up to prepare teams for the regular season.

The Aggies went 1-3 in the Cal Cup; they lost against Fresno State (12-14), UCLA (7-21), and Cal 7-14. They defeated San Jose State (12-8) in their lone win of the tournament. Tournament leaders for these games were fifth-year whole set Noëlle Wijnbelt, third-year utility Grace Pelkey, third-year utility Tess Fundter and fifth-year attacker Alyssa Lengtat.

The Aggies next invitational was hosted by UC San Diego in La Jolla, California. They played a total of four games across the three day Triton invite, and they did better than the Cal Cup, where they went 2-2. In close games, the Aggies lost to UC San Diego (7-8) and UC Santa Barbara (5-6). They beat Cal State Northridge (15-6) and San Diego State (11-5).

The Aggies hosted their first invitational in Davis on Feb. 11 to 12. They went 2-2 where they lost against Cal (5-15) and Stanford (3-16) and defeated San Jose State (9-7) and California Baptist (11-9).

They had two more minor preseason tournaments hosted in Fresno and Irvine, where UC Davis got more of an idea of how to proceed with the rest of the season.

“These invitationals really helped us get prepared for the main part of the season because we got the opportunity to discover our teams strengths and weaknesses,” first-year attacker Sarah Ellis-Keeler said. “Not only did we get to improve as a team, but we got a good lay of the ground for the teams we played against. We got a good gauge of how our most competitive teams play so we can have a better understanding of how to beat them next time around.” 

UC Davis’s first regular season game was on the road in Northridge on March 10 against CSUN. They won this game (11-7) and strung together a three-game win streak by winning the next two games to start off the season.

“I remember feeling confident in the first few games of the season because of all the practice we did in preseason,” first-year center Liberty Massman said. “Because I am a freshman, I think those preseason games really helped us at the beginning of the season because I did not know how my new teammates played, and that gave me the experience I needed playing with my new team and at the collegiate level.”

Their next two games were against University of Michigan and UC Irvine; The Aggies lost both games by less than three points. Eventually, UC Irvine went on to win the Big West Conference Tournament.

“Obviously losing is defeating, but that was a really big game for us. Nobody was disappointed after the game because knowing they were ranked sixth and we were 11th, we felt we were all able to come together at that game and play at a high level,” second-year utility Samantha Yoo said. 

At this point in the season, UC Davis had only five more games to play before the conference tournament. Two of those games, against Santa Clara University and CSU Fullerton, were easy wins, as they won by more than 10 points in each game.

The three games they lost were close games. The first game, being a redemption game against UC San Diego, the Aggies lost by only one point. The Aggies were up by two in the first quarter of the game but could not hang on to the lead in the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter.

Another close loss came against Long Beach State, the Aggies lost in overtime. The game was up in the air until the last couple minutes of the fourth quarter.

The last game before the conference championship was against the University of Hawaii, which was held at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex in Hawaii. The Aggies lost by four points but were within reach until the last quarter.

“We played well in these games, and we came together well as a team, which made us feel confident for conference [games],” Yoo said. “Those three losses fired us up even more for the first conference game and made us collectively want to win that first game.”

The Big West Conference Tournament was held in Santa Barbara in a single elimination format, starting on April 28. The Aggies opened the tournament against their conference rival UC San Diego. The Aggies suffered, yet again, in a close loss, only losing by one point. The loss eliminated the Aggies from the tournament and their season came to an end.

“We honestly had a bit of a rough start with our comradery and coming together as a team but we noticed those weaknesses and that helped us come together as a team towards the end of the season,” said Yoo. 

UC Davis looks forward to next season and building off the camaraderie that was built toward the end of the season.


Written by: Eloise Engs — sports@theaggie.org