February 8, 2011

UC Davis Women Have High Hopes

from press release

DAVIS, Calif. - Several UC Davis teams took giant steps forward during the 2009-10 athletics year, not the least of which was the women's lacrosse program. The Aggies went from a 6-12 record two years ago to a 11-6 mark in 2010, prompting LaxPower.com to deem UC Davis as the "most improved" Division I team in the country based on the site's power ratings.

The Aggie offense boosted its output from 10 goals per game to an average of better than 14. The defense took a similar uptick, halting teams to 171 goals in 17 games (10.1 pg) after surrendering almost 500 scores in the two previous seasons (13.7 pg). UC Davis posted its first win over California since 2001 - snapping a series streak of 12 consecutive losses - and scored a quarterfinal upset at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament for the second straight year.

All of these signs indicate a program on the rise, which is why 10th-year head coach Elaine Jones has set high expectations and lofty goals for her team. Furthermore, she does not discount her program's recent success but is quick to warn her players against resting on any laurels.

"I think it's good that the team gained confidence last year," said Jones. "But every year is different and the challenge is keeping them focusing forward and not living on their past achievements, but using those past achievements to propel them forward to greater heights."

Part of the challenge is replacing the departed seniors from last year's team. The trio of Molly Peterson, Molly Lapolla and Britt Farquharson accounted for more than a third of the team's offensive output in 2010. Peterson started all 71 games during the past four years, finishing among Aggie career leaders with 84 caused turnovers. Lapolla finished up as one of the program's career leaders in goals (90) and assists (51), while Farquharson tallied 77 goals in a two-year career.

"They were three impact seniors and that was a lot of scoring," said Jones. "Something we need to look for this year is scoring from different people. I see certain players stepping up. Whether they can do it in the big games is something we'll find out. I definitely see players who have improved from last year. It's a matter of blending them in with the rest of the team and making it work."

The 2010 season featured a recipe for success, and Jones looks to mix similar ingredients: a senior class that provides both on-field output and leadership, a strong influx of talented young players, and a mentality to "set the bar higher" - a refrain the veteran coach frequently invokes when anticipating the 2011 season.

Immediately stepping into the role of veteran leadership is one of the most substantial senior classes in Jones' tenure at UC Davis. On the front lines, All-MPSF honoree Gina Hoffmire led the Aggies with 50 goals in 2010, while Christina Corsa shares the school's single-season record for assists. Laura Martin provided both scoring punch on attack while her tall frame helped her corral 11 draw controls. On the defensive end, team co-captains Lauren Boyle and Rachael Martinez combined for 35 ground balls and 40 caused turnovers, while Alyse Lasater posted strong midfield stats in her first year as a full-time starter. In the crease, Kjersten Nordmeyer posted 21 saves and held opponents to less than nine goals per 60 minutes.

Bolstering this group is junior defender Vannessa Jamison, a second-team All-MPSF selection and the team's Defensive MVP in 2010. The Poway, Calif. native led UC Davis with 37 ground balls while furnishing 18 draw controls and 24 caused turnovers.

The 2010 season saw major contributions from its freshman class. Hannah Mirza led the Aggies with 25 draw controls, scored 25 goals and shot better than .500 for the year. Elizabeth Datino and Anna Geissbuhler each posted double figures in goals and assists, while the latter won 22 draws.

Continuing a recent trend, Jones brought in another strong group of first-year players, including six National Letter of Intent signees. Although the departure of only three seniors and the abundance of top returnees limits the opportunities, Jones foresees the possibility of having at least a few freshmen in starting roles. "If a freshman can play well and earn a starting position, then on the field they'll go," she says.

Finally, the team's chemistry and focus - hallmarks of the Aggie program to start the 2010 season - have returned in spades for the upcoming year. According to Jones, the team has set as its goal the MPSF title, which in 2011 includes an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. UC Davis has advanced to the semifinals in each of the past two seasons, but the conference banner is pursued by an increasingly tough field of teams. But Jones attests to her team's commitment to that goal.

"When I say the bar is set high, we're looking for the NCAA bid," said Jones. "But we've got to get through Cal, Oregon, Denver, Stanford, Fresno and Saint Mary's to get there. The players know this. Rather than backing away from it, we need them to embrace it. And they get that message."

The road toward that objective begins right out of the gates, as UC Davis opens its 2011 season with MPSF games at California on Sunday, then at home against Fresno State on February 19. Jones got a valuable glimpse at her team's prospects against the conference in Sunday's Stanford Playday, where the Aggies took on the host Cardinal and visiting Bulldogs and ended the monotony of preseason workouts. "It was really good for the players to get out onto the field and play against someone besides themselves," Jones said. "It's a good chance for me to see how certain combinations work. What might work in practice doesn't work necessarily on the field when you get them out there. I think I saw a lot of good things and we'll continue to build on it this week heading into our Cal opener."

Friday's UC Davis-California contest takes place at 2 p.m. in Berkeley. Due to construction at Memorial Stadium, all Golden Bear games will be held at Witter Rugby Field in 2011.

STICK CHECKS: Gina Hoffmire is the fourth Aggie to reach 50 goals in a season, joining Katie McMahon, Jaime Fitzpatrick and Allison Stonebarger... McMahon did it all four years while Stonebarger had exactly 50 in each of her sophomore and junior seasons... Hoffmire needs 10 goals to become the fifth player to hit the century mark in career goals, joining McMahon (252), Stonebarger (132), Katie McGovern (108) and Megan O'Connor (104)... Christina Corsa needs 16 assists to catch Kelly Albin for the career assists record... Corsa already shares the single-season mark of 29 with Albin... Sunday's game will be Cal's second contest: the Golden Bears host No. 12 Notre Dame on Friday... Cal returns All-MPSF honorees Vail Horn (35 goals) and Allie Shropshire (147 saves, 10.83 GAA).

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