#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - UC Davis
BigWest.org chatted with UC Davis head coaches Twila Kaufman (women's soccer), Dwayne Shaffer (men's soccer) and Dan Conners (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
New Aggie Era: In her first season at the helm, head coach Twila Kaufman brings extensive experience, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament and a Sweet 16 appearance during her 10 years at Pepperdine, in addition to contagious enthusiasm. As the fifth head coach in UC Davis history, Kaufman comes in on the heels of Maryclaire Robinson, who amassed nearly 200 victories in her 22 years and is the winningest coach in Aggie history. While UCD has recorded two winning seasons since joining the Big West in 2007, Kaufman looks forward to challenging herself and the squad to continuously improve, and develop the program into an annual Big West contender.
Springing Forward: The 2013 Aggies finished 6-9-3 overall 3-4-1 mark in conference. During the spring, Kaufman’s Aggies dug their heels in and directed focus to shape and tempo. With five starters graduating, Kaufman inherited the program at a perfect time to introduce change. The rookie coach describes her players’ innate mentality on the field as “go-go-go,” so the Aggies will work to slow the pace of play in their new approach on the pitch. After netting a total of 14 goals last fall, the Aggies are honing in on their ball handling skills and will need to bolster the number of goals scored in order to claim a spot in the Big West Tournament. As Kaufman emphasized, one of the first steps is controlling the tempo of the game.
Diverse and Dangerous: Look out for an athletically diverse squad on the field this season. As coach Kaufman explained, the blend of unique talents will be the Aggies’ greatest weapon. Players such as juniors Ana Marija Sola and Mari Pastor and sophomores Ashley Kawasaki and Emma Tinloy bring a vital sense of rhythm and pace to the game along with high soccer IQs while others contribute speed and size. Kaufman also notes that UCD boasts athletes who are great one-on-one specialists and ball handlers.
New Blood: With 11 players in the 2014 signing class, Kaufman expects some of the new faces to contribute right off the bat. As a
younger team, Davis’ three transfers joining the ranks will bring valuable experience. Sophomore Rachel Smith from USC will join the
Aggies on the backline, sophomore Celina Minissian from Saint Mary’s will contribute up top and junior Lindsay Johansen brings
experience as a defender from Arkansas State. Smith tallied an assist in her freshman campaign with the Trojans and Minissian
recorded a goal and an assist with the Gaels. Johansen started all 40 matches for the Red Wolves in her first two seasons and was
named First Team All-Conference her sophomore year.
“Championship Presence, Warrior Spirit”: As Kaufman and Davis transition into a new season, the coach emphasized the
significance of her athletes’ character. “We want to win here one day at the highest level and when we do, we want to be able to look to
the people to our left and our right and be thankful that they were the ones and really feel like there was nobody else you’d rather be
with.” This fall, the Aggies will reveal a “Living Into The Dream” campaign in which the series of releases will highlight an athlete and
her future goals while living her current dream of having the opportunity to pursue academics and athletics at a DI program. The
campaign will illustrate the evolution of what it means to live into one’s dreams and the hard work, sacrifice and dedication it takes to
bring that dream to fruition. Follow the campaign at #LivingIntoTheDream.
QUOTABLES – TWILA KAUFMAN
(On NCAA experience): “I really don’t think there are any superstars out there. I just think that everybody has to get up in the morning and try their very best to do the right things over and over again and if you do those things, in time you’re going to be successful.”
(On team’s approach this season): “They’re just really hungry. A lot of them, I think their best days are still ahead of them and I think they know it. And I love that about them. I think this is a team that is going to be capable of beating teams that are really good matchups for us. I think they’re also capable of beating teams that might appear to be just outside our reach. They have such strong hearts and a will to get better and really buy into a team concept and I’m just really thankful that I inherited such awesome human beings.”
(On team’s intensity): “I always wanted to be somewhere where I felt like everybody was pursuing excellence so I think here the academics are so high, it’s such an elite level of academic pursuit here that when I walk through campus, I really feel like people are getting after it. And it’s in all different walks of life not just athletics.”
(On joining the Big West): “I’m really excited, I’ve played against the Big West as opponents for years, I consider every head coach and assistants a friend of mine and also a colleague that I respect very much.”
(On UC Davis): “When I got here I was blown away with the quality of human being that I found here. The previous staff just did an exceptional job recruiting wonderful people and this place is really special.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
3 Returning starters who received 2013 All-Conference honors in senior forward Lexi Poppoff (2nd team), junior forward Sienna Drizin (honorable mention) and Nicole Bouvia (all-freshman)
4 Number of consecutive seasons in which UC Davis received a team academic award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America by earning a collective 3.0 GPA or higher
9 Number of home games in 2014
169 Career saves recorded by senior goalkeeper Taylor Jern, which ranks No. 2 in the Big West among active career leaders
2013 The year the Aggies finished in a tie for fifth in league play, their second-highest showing since joining the league in 2007
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Stepped Up Scoring: UC Davis has won 19 games over the past two seasons despite ranking second-to-last in the Big West in goal scoring. Yet of the 42 games the Aggies played in 2012 and 2013 combined, they scored one goal or less 28 times. The Aggies went 7-15-6 in those contests. During that same span, UC Davis went 12-1-1 when it scored two or more goals. The Big West’s three NCAA Tournament programs last year – CSUN, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara – all exceeded the 30-goal threshold. Head coach Dwayne Shaffer emphasized that improvement in the goal-scoring department will be key to his team’s success, “so that we’re out in front of a game instead of always chasing a game or in a tight game.”
Help “Matt”ers: The Aggies possess a pair of polished goal scorers in seniors Matt Wiesenfarth and Matt Sheldon. The all-conference forwards each scored six goals last season, accounting for 12 of the team’s 20 total tallies. But production from elsewhere is going to be a necessity for the Aggies to make a foray into the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore forward Dashiell MacNamara (3G, 1A) is a candidate to take on some of the scoring workload. Attacking junior midfielder Eddie Manella returns to the lineup after a redshirt season and figures to add extra punch. And then there’s freshman Evan Barrett, who, like Wiesenfarth, played locally at perennial high school power Jesuit. Barrett, a highly touted recruit, scored 21 goals for the Marauders as a senior and made the NSCAA High School All-America Team.
Defensive Anchors: The Aggies were one of three Big West teams to allow less than one goal per game last year, finishing third with a 0.96 goals against average. A pair of defensive anchors – seniors Brian Ford and Ramon Martin Del Campo – played important roles in that success. Ford, a second team all-conference choice, has played out of position the previous two seasons according to Shaffer, and he envisions Ford transitioning from center defender to right fullback to utilize his speed. An All-Big West Honorable Mention selection in 2013, Del Campo has enjoyed a productive offseason. In addition to being named the captain of the San Jose Earthquakes PDL team, Del Campo was called into camp with the United States Under-23 Men’s National Team on August 1.
Vacancy At Keeper: Omar Zeenni, the 2013 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year, graduated. Who will be the heir at that position? Shaffer sees a competition between three talented candidates – redshirt sophomore Armando Quezada, redshirt junior Kris Schultz and junior John Piasta. Quezada served as Zeenni’s backup last year, appearing in five contests and making three starts. Schultz was Zeenni’s backup in 2012, but missed the 2013 season due to injury. The 6-foot-5 Piasta also could be a factor.
Home Field Advantage: Over the last six seasons, UC Davis has posted a 30-15-7 record at Aggie Soccer Field. The Aggies have a favorable non-conference slate, which sees them get Loyola Marymount, San Diego, Air Force, Grand Canyon and Saint Mary’s at home. The team also opens up Big West play at home against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. Early success could create a sustaining momentum that would serve the Aggies well throughout the season.
QUOTABLES – DWAYNE SHAFFER
(On Matt Wiesenfarth and Matt Sheldon): “As a coach, you can’t really ask for too much more than to have your two leading scorers returning to the team and both are going to be fourth-year senior starters. They’re great leaders and they’ve got a ton of talent.”
(On need for offensive improvement): “We definitely need to score more goals. We’ve always been a very good, competitive team. We can compete with anybody on any day. It’d be nice to get some consistent scoring to give our defense some breathing room and be able to play the game on an attacking mode.”
(On Ramon Martin Del Campo): “Ramon has been a rock in the back for my team, and he’s improved tremendously over the past spring season. He’s definitely got the ability to become a professional player, and he’s doing everything in his power to get there.”
(On the big picture): “Our goal is always to win the Big West Conference championship and qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and compete for a national championship. It takes a lot of luck, it takes depth in a program, and I feel like this year we’re going to be a little bit deeper and a little bit more talented than we have over the last three years.”
(On the need for non-conference success): “I know it’s important for us to get out of region and try to play some tough teams to help our RPI. This year we’re traveling out to Ohio State. But we are fortunate to have quite a few home games, and I’m really looking forward to playing a lot of these games at Aggie Soccer Field because we play really well at our field. In non-conference, we have to do a little bit better to be considered for the NCAA Tournament, and that’s our goal.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
4 Number of players who accounted for all nine Aggie game-winning goals in 2013 – all are back this season
6 Projected seniors in the starting lineup for the 2014 season opener
11 Total games decided by one goal in 2013 – the Aggies were 6-5 in those games
19 Group of players called into camp for the USA Under-23 National Team, of which senior defender Ramon Martin Del Campo was one
60 Percentage of the team’s goals scored by Matt Wiesenfarth and Matt Sheldon last season
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
New Face At The Helm: UC Davis women’s volleyball welcomes Dan Conners, most recently the top assistant at the University of Illinois, as the new head coach for the Aggies. His appointment marks a return to the Golden State, after he spent three years as an assistant coach with the Cal State Northridge men’s volleyball team from 2003-06. Conners has also served on the staffs at three elite women’s programs during the past eight seasons: Illinois, Nebraska and UCLA. He replaces Jamie Holmes, the 2009 Big West Conference Co-Coach of the Year who guided UC Davis to 100 wins during a six-year tenure. Holmes resigned from her position during the offseason.
Finding Success Down The Stretch: After the start of the 2013 conference season, UC Davis looked like it could make a run for one of the top spots in the Big West after posting a 6-4 record in the first 10 conference matches, including a 3-2 win over No. 8 Hawai’i. Momentum changed down the stretch with UC Davis going winless in its final six contests to finish tied for fifth with a 6-10 mark. Not helping the cause was the fact that three of the Aggies’ final six contests were against the 2013 Big West tri-champions - CSUN, UC Santa Barbara and Hawai’i. To be successful in 2014, the Aggies need to finish on a strong note and their schedule is favorable to that as they play six of their last eight contests in the familiar confines of The Pavilion where UC Davis was 7-4 last season.
Lee Leading The Pack: Senior middle blocker Victoria Lee is expected to headline a veteran Aggies roster in 2014. Last year the All-Big West First Team member tallied an explosive .403 attack percentage to finish first in the Big West Conference and 22nd in the nation. Her impressive number was the Big West’s highest single-season hitting percentage since UC Irvine’s Sami Cash blasted a .442 clip in 2004.
Setter Vacancy: In the offseason UC Davis said goodbye to setter Jenny Woolway, who quarterbacked the Aggies all four years en route to a program-best 4,680 assists. With 1,275 career digs, Woolway became the first UC Davis setter to eclipse the 1,000-dig threshold. A trio of athletes, freshmen Erika Conners and Katie Campbell and sophomore transfer Sophia Mar, will be fighting to fill the vacancy left by Woolway.
Filling The Void: Along with the setter position, there is a huge void at the opposite position following the loss of Devon Damelio. During her senior campaign she paced UC Davis in kills (367), total attempts (973) and serve receptions (603), while ranking second with 25 aces. She also amassed 317 digs and 86 blocks for the year, capping a season in which she picked up her fifth career all-tournament selection at the Wolf Pack Invitational and her first Big West Conference Player of the Week award. Damelio also became the eighth player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-kill plateau. She finished her career ranked sixth all-time in school history with 1,058 kills, passing Jen Bryan (1993-96) and Heidi Knapp (1988-91). Among Big West leaders, Damelio ranked seventh in kills per set at 3.11 and fourth in points per set with a 3.68 average.
QUOTABLES – DAN CONNERS
(On expectations for the upcoming season as a new Big West head coach): “I don’t know what to expect. The Big West is a conference with a strong history with the strength of Long Beach and Hawai’i, along with the recent success of UC Santa Barbara and Northridge.”
(On senior Victoria Lee leading the team): “Certainly I’d love it if Victoria was a leader and put up the numbers she did in the past and hopefully we can have some others step up and do the same thing. I’d like everyone to step up in the leadership role on some level. That is going to be determined on how things go in the preseason and how healthy everyone is moving forward.”
(On the experience of the team): “Experience is something that helps but it isn’t something you can absolutely rely on because the players have to produce and it comes down to who is executing in those moments. But, experience definitely helps that.”
(On the preseason portion of its schedule): “I think the preseason will be for feeling out where we are and seeing how we can improve and get battle-tested and hopefully get us ready for conference play. I don’t know if there is a certain opponent we are looking at to tell us exactly where we are.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
.403 Hitting percentage of middle blocker Victoria Lee last year, who led the Big West and ranked 22nd in the nation
2 Nonconference home contests this season
7 Upperclassmen on the Aggies’ 2014 roster
367 Team-leading kills collected by Devon Damelio during her final season donning the blue and gold (2013)
1,309 Number of fans that witnessed UC Davis record the school’s biggest upset in program history when the Aggies downed eighth-ranked Hawai’i on October 26, 2013