Editor’s note: This is the last in an eight-part series previewing the Davis High fall sports.
“Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”
If legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is correct, then the Davis High girls water polo team has not lacked in character over the past couple of years. Now it’s up to the 2013 Blue Devils to show they’ve got enough to make it five Sac-Joaquin Section titles in a row.
Making DHS’ quest easier is the return of The Big Four — Colby Stapleton, Mara Dominguez, Lauren Owens and Heather Johnson — a group that contributed mightily to the locals’ championship effort last season. Longtime Devil head coach Doug Wright expects big things from the quartet this year, and has high praise for each player’s individual abilities:
“Mara Dominguez is one of the best shooters in the section. Lauren Owens is one of the best all-around post-up players. Colby Stapleton is one of the most outstanding players to have ever played in the section and then Heather Johnson is the returning MVP.”
While the play of The Big Four will go a long way toward determining Davis’ fate this season, the Blue Devils’ depth also will be leaned on, especially in the early going. DHS is dealing with a couple of key injuries, including one to Stapleton. The junior suffered a concussion at a summer water polo event and a return date is still to be determined.
Also missing games early will be junior Mattie Lilliedoll, who was slated to replace the graduated Alicia Demaree as the Devil goalkeeper. With Lilliedoll out, freshman Katrina Strum, a ninth-grader at Emerson, will guard the local net.
In the absence of the two players, senior Johnson and Owens along with juniors Dominguez and Alyssa Alvarez and sophomores Kendall Doten and Kinsey Van Deynze — who will make up Davis’ starting lineup — must be sharp as the Blue Devils navigate a tough schedule.
“We graduated some solid seniors last year,” Wright said. “But these girls that are moving into their spots are more than capable.
“We are going to have the toughest schedule of any team in Northern California. If we have any easy games, it’ll be because we played really well.”
Part of the reason for that challenging slate is that many there are several area opponents who will be tough in 2013. St. Mary’s, Lodi and Granite Bay each have strong squads, and rival St. Francis has a new coach, but is coming off of a season that ended in a 9-8 section title match loss to DHS.
To defeat those teams, the Devils plan to use their customary aggressive defense. That defense is a major source of their offense, as it goads opponents into fouls, which result in power plays for the locals. Then, their potent offense kicks in and goals quickly follow.
When a team is coming off of four straight championships, title expectations for the fifth can be pretty high, and some squads can crumble under that pressure. Wright, however, doesn’t see that scenario in Davis’ future:
“My only expectation is that they work hard,” said the coach, who will be starting his 18th season at the helm. “Teams that work hard tend to win games, and that’s really what our secret to success has been.”
— Reach Spencer Ault at email@example.com