The UC Davis women’s soccer team’s plan to defy expectations with a strong finish in the Big West Conference relies on defeating two conference rivals this weekend at home.
And junior defender Mary Beth Mazurek is all but guaranteed to be on the field when the Aggies battle for conference glory against Long Beach State (Friday) and UC Irvine (Sunday).
That’s because Mazurek has started every game of her collegiate career, and has rarely even been substituted out. She continues to be a consistent roster presence as UCD has posted a 1-1 record in Big West play and is 6-5 overall in 2012.
“Mary Beth is our iron woman,” said Aggie coach Maryclaire Robinson. “As a player, she has been absolutely solid. She’s not a super big kid, but she still manages to win balls in the air.”
Always playing in the back line, Mazurek was positioned as an outside back her freshman and sophomore years. After the Aggies lost three senior defenders to graduation, she has shifted to the center defender spot in 2012.
“(Learning center defender) was a slow process at first, because it was so foreign to me,” Mazurek said. “We have a great back line. It’s easier than I thought because we work well together. We’ve remained solid by supporting each other.”
None of UCD’s opponents have found the net more than twice in a game this season — a testament to the strength of that back line. Mazurek and fellow Aggie defenders held Cal Poly, which is undefeated in the Big West, to a single goal on Sept. 30
The hard work Mazurek puts in on the pitch parallels her labor off the field as she looks toward an ambitious career goal — to become a dentist. She said many youthful days spent in her mother’s dental office inspired her passion for oral hygiene.
While on the road with her Aggie teammates, Mazurek spends long hours studying neurobiology, physiology and behavioral science. Excelling on such a time-consuming educational path is exhausting, Mazurek admitted, when combined with the responsibility of playing high-level college soccer.
“A lot of (UCD women’s soccer players), before me and now, were some type of science major,” Mazurek said. “They’ve helped me with classes and have given me studying materials.
“I’m more adjusted to it now than I was during freshman year, but it’s still a daily struggle.”
Mazurek spends the offseason doing internships to bolster her future graduate school application — ensuring she is on the right path to achieving her goals.
“Quite frankly, she has been successful in every area,” Robinson said. “She has a nice GPA, she has been a great player for us and she is getting those internships under her belt so when those grad school apps go in — she can impress.”
Mazurek’s perseverance on the field earned her a Preseason All-Big West team selection in July. This recognition came after she started all 19 games last season, to help the Aggies tie for fourth in the conference.
The impressive finish followed a 2011 Big West preseason poll that placed UCD near the bottom of the conference. With a predicted finish of seventh in 2012, the Aggies once again are looking to prove themselves.
“It’s just a matter of staying fresh and managing the academics and athletics well,” Robinson said. “Particularly because we have been on the road so much.”
The Aggies make a long-awaited return to their home turf to face the 49ers (9-5) and the Anteaters (7-8) after seven consecutive games away from Aggie Soccer Field.
Heading into the bouts, the UCD squad hopes to capitalize on the morale boost of a 3-2 triumph over Pacific on Friday. Aggie freshman Sienna Drizin scored with two minutes left to clinch that victory.
UCD is tied for fourth in the Big West, and has plenty of opportunity to move up in its remaining six matchups.
“It has been very fun; they have a lot of spunk,” Robinson said of her squad. “It’s just a matter of getting our energies and focus directed on the same task, and we’ve been able to do that.
“It has been a really interesting journey for us. We’re at this place now where we’ve played really good soccer, and we’ve got a lot left in us.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com