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Aggie women make their pitch with impressive exhibition effort

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From page B1 | August 18, 2013 |

UCD's Ashley Edwards to block the ball in Saturday's exhibition win over Oregon. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series previewing the UC Davis fall sports.

* Solid goalkeeping? Check.

* Quick, deep backline? Check.

* Potentially remarkable freshman class? Check.

* Crazy ability to score? Maybe.

* Countdown to College Cup? We’ll see …

With confidence already sky-high coming off of a successful spring practice schedule — mixed with a new vibe, in part provided by a nine-freshman recruiting class — the UC Davis women’s soccer team hinted Saturday at a special run in 2013.

After a 1-0 scrimmage “win” against visiting Oregon, the almost-500 Aggie fans in attendance saw first-hand what the buzz is about.

“We were ready,” UCD coach Maryclaire Robinson told The Enterprise. “(Oregon is) athletic, pacey and they were going at us. We knew we could play with them.”

The two schools tied 2-2 during the spring.

The Aggies got the scoreboard nod when Sienna Drizin scored in the 84th minute, thanks to assists from senior Ashley Edwards and freshman Jill Bilodeaux.

Bilodeaux joined fellow rookies Emma Tilnoy, Nicole Bouvia and Nicole Smolinski in providing quality minutes in their UCD debuts.

“The freshmen, they come in experienced … it means we don’t have to teach them,” said sophomore Drizin, who is no stranger to hitting the ground running as she started all 19 games last season.

The Las Vegas native also accounted for nine points in 2012. Expect that number to grow this fall for Drizin who, along with Edwards, was recently named to the College Sports Madness Preseason All-Big West Conference team.

“Sienna played great,” Robinson added. “The freshmen were terrific. I’m lovin’ what I saw. Everyone got a little taste and (we saw) how they handled it. It was great.”

Now, the Aggies get a full banquet as the regular season begins Friday when Sacramento State comes to town. The Hornets haven’t beaten UCD since 2006.

It will be the first step as the locals try to improve on an 8-9-2 campaign in which they dropped seven games by one goal.

In addition to their rugged Big West slate, the Aggies embark on what Robinson calls “no doubt our toughest schedule.”

Four NCAA Tournament teams and three Pac-12 foes highlight the slate, which sees UCD on the road for 10 of its first 12 contests.

After hosting Drake (Sept. 1), the next nine outings are elsewhere. The Aggies won’t be home again until Oct. 17 against conference foe Hawaii.

UCD gets Pac-12 opposition in back-to-back games — Cal on Sept. 8, and Utah on Sept. 13. After Texas Tech and New Mexico (at Albuquerque Sept. 13 and 15), conference play opens with Pacific on Sept. 27.

Robinson believes this Aggie edition may be the deepest she’s seen in what will be her 22nd season at the helm.

“This senior class, over their four years, has minutes, has success,” Robinson said. “After losing seven games by one goal, I think they really understand now what it takes to win. They understand how to manage the game and get those key goals. All of (the elements it takes to win), we have in our backpack.”

Defender Mary Beth Mazurek, forward Edwards and midfielder Kiele Argente are expected to provide much of the senior leadership, but Drizin says this team has quickly gelled.

“How are we different (from last year)?” Drizin asks. “We’re a lot closer and we’re just so much more positive … everyone wants to be here, we’re more competitive. Everybody wants it. We’re like a family.”

So fast has been the acclimation that Robinson says she’s had a chance to tinker with the offense.

“Historically, we’ve played a three front, but we might mix that up,” Robinson explained. “We have a crazy ability to score. We’re faster, more athletic, dynamic. While we were really, really close last year, we’re more complete this year, which is really exciting.”

Robinson adds that while she likes seeing the ball at the feet of players like Hannah Hicks, Lexi Poppoff, Argente, Drizin and Edwards, there might be a handful of other go-to women emerging.

Defender Ana Marija Sola, a sophomore, and goalkeeper Taylor Jern (a junior) provide a particularly tough duo to master. Robinson says redshirt freshman Katie Foster has “given Jern good competition at keeper, which is good for both.”

As the Aggies gradually show their competitive meddle in Division I, Robinson credits long-time assistant Rosie DeWeese with “doing a phenomenal job of recruiting. When we first were in D-I those phone calls didn’t get returned. Now they get returned.”

Witness the 2013 freshman class.

Notes: In addition to Smolinski (Aliso Niguel, Aliso Viejo), Tinloy (West Torrance), Bouvie (Central Valley Christian, Visalia) and Bilodeaux (Red Bluff High), the rest of the incoming freshmen include defenders Kate Ranahan (Bishop O’Dowd) and Hailey Jenkins (Hart, Santa Clarita),  forward/midfielders Andrea Damian (St. Francis of Sacramento) and Audrey Romano (Cardinal Newman) and pure forward Taylor Locke (Presentation, San Jose). … Ducks goalie coach Hideki Nakada is a 1999 Davis High graduate who earned two CIF crown in the Blue Devil nets. … Oregon was 8-10-2 last fall. … First-year UCD football coach Ron Gould was among Saturday’s announced crowd of 447.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8047.

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