The UC Davis women’s volleyball team got some big news on Monday: For the first time in program history, the Aggies received votes in the AVCA Division I Top 25 poll.
And they didn’t get those 10 votes for nothing.
UCD has torn out of the gates to start the 2011 campaign, winning 10 of its first 11 matches and taking a troika of tournament titles home with wins at the Northern Colorado Classic, the Park Inn Hurricane Invitational and last weekend’s Pioneer Classic.
Amidst their hot start, the Aggies have taken down two teams that recently received votes for the Top 25 poll themselves, including Tulsa, which was ranked 23rd in one preseason poll. UCD upset the other, Missouri, on Saturday in Denver.
Before the win over Tulsa, the Aggies hadn’t bested a ranked team or one receiving votes since 2009, when they took out UC Irvine at home.
Senior captain Betsy Sedlak believes the success the program has realized over the past few seasons, especially after years of futility, is a reflection of the job fourth-year head coach Jamie Holmes has done.
“I think she’s done some amazing things turning this program into what it has become, and just getting all the players to the same level as her,” Sedlak said.
Holmes, on the other hand, attributes the early success to a comprehensive team effort.
“This team is tremendously mature; the seniors and the juniors and really everybody that’s in the program, have bought into what they wanted to accomplish,” Holmes said.
Before the Hurricane Invitational, the team selected Sedlak and sophomore setter Jenny Woolway to serve as the two co-captains this year.
Sedlak is one of the team leaders in blocks and digs but, according to Holmes, her value as a captain comes from more than just what she does on the court.
“Just in terms of her leadership, I tell you what, the kid teaches me things on a daily basis,” Holmes said. “She’s just a solid person, a solid character, she works tremendously hard.”
Woolway may not be one of the more physically gifted athletes on the court, but that doesn’t stop her from putting up big numbers as well.
“She just takes the shackles off and just plays,” Holmes said. “She’s the No. 1 digging center in our conference and she’s No. 2 in assists per set.”
The team lost two key players from last season, including opposite hitter Melanie Adams — who led the team in kills — and Kayla Varney, one of the best diggers in Aggie history.
But Holmes contends they have found the right combination of young players to replace the two veterans, including Devon Damelio — who has 97 kills, good for second on the squad so far this season — and redshirt freshman Valerie Brain, who has contributed 85 kills.
“(Damelio is) a strong stabilizer in our lineup,” Holmes said. “Her perfect pass percentage is the highest on the team and really that’s one reason why she has solidified that position. She’s really been hitting the ball hard.”
The Aggies young and old will be back on the court Tuesday (7 p.m.) for the Causeway Classic matchup at Sacramento State. UCD will be looking for revenge, as last season the Hornets edged the Aggies in a close match.
“We definitely want to go into every match with the same mentality, but everyone knows Sac State is a big one for sure,” Sedlak said. “The last two years against them have been a big battle. We’ve gone to five (games) both times, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Following the match with Sac State, the Aggies will have three consecutive home matches when they host the annual Aggie Invitational this weekend at Hickey Gym. UCD plays Hofstra on Friday at 7 p.m., and faces Air Force and Seattle on Saturday.
The Aggies won their home event last year and Sedlak was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.