“We have wonderful team leadership,” UC Davis women’s volleyball coach Jamie Holmes said. “The captains have done a great job … and we’re starting to see (which players) are going to take the big swings at the end of games.”
When the Aggies invade Cal State Northridge (11-3) on Saturday, it will mark the Big West Conference opener for both squads.
After a convincing 3-1 win over previously ranked Cal last Thursday, UCD sent stubborn Cal State Bakersfield packing, 3-1, to finish nonconference play at 8-5.
Setter Jenny Woolway has been a major ingredient in the Aggie emergence. The record-setting senior was asked if she thought UCD has become a contender in the always rugged Big West …
“Definitely,” the co-captain told The Enterprise. “We gel well together. It was really cool during the Cal game, even in crazy plays or down by a few points, somehow we managed to come together as a team. We’ve been playing for each other and it shows.”
In the wins over the Bears and Roadrunners, the locals fell behind a set and came back to muscle out the next three.
Woolway, whose 1,042 digs put her seventh on the program’s career list, also is just 28 assists away from being the only Aggie to reach 4,000 successful sets.
The Torrey Pines High School graduate says this could be a special season for UCD, thanks to a combination of chemistry, confidence and talent.
“The chemistry is definitely there. We consider ourselves a family.
“Confidence? It continues to grow with each team we play. I know the last couple of wins have helped with that.
“And the talent is certainly there. We have some great hitters, passers … Everyone is pushing everyone else each and every single day.”
For example, sophomore Kaylin Squyres let the Aggies in kills against Cal and Bakersfield while libero Megan Lancaster dug out 30 of the opponents’ returns. Middle blocker Katie Quinn had eight blocks agains the Bears and 10 kills against the Roadrunners. Victoria Lee’s .528 hitting average was key in the two matches and vaulted the junior middle blocker into 21st nationally (.423).
With Northridge (Saturday, 7 p.m.), Cal State Fullerton (Oct. 4) and UC Riverside (Oct. 5) opening Big West play — all on the road — how important is a fast start for UCD?
“It means everything,” Woolway believes. “We take every game as if it was our last game now. All the girls on the team are going into every match with a sense of urgency.
“We want to show the rest of the conference we mean business … (that) we should be given a certain amount of respect.”
Woolway grew up in Carmel Valley north of San Diego.
Living on a cul-de-sac, she was one of only two girls out of 30 neighborhood kids who played street baseball, football and lots of driveway basketball.
“We’d be out with all the boys playing,” Woolway recalls. “I fell in love with sports that way. Before school, after school, during the summer … sports, sports.”
Woolway thanks her brother Greg for narrowing her athletic path. The captain’s sibling played prep basketball and volleyball and took his little sister to a lot of his practices.
While Jenny was drawn to volleyball, it wasn’t until her club coach — former Olympian Jeannie Reeves — took her to a USC match that she made a career decision.
“I went to that match and my jaw just dropped,” Woolway remembers. “I said ‘I want to be that girl one day; I want to be out on that court.’ It was just so inspirational to me.”
In becoming a standout at Torrey Pines and on the Encinitas Wave club squad, Woolway says she learned all aspects of the game, owing her versatility on the court to Reeves: “She would throw us in wherever. It was more unconventional than position-specific coaches, but I learned a lot.”
Along the way, Woolway was an All-American, selected to prepvolleyball.com’s top 125 and won a 2008 Junior Olympics championship.
After the three Big West road matches, Aggie fans can join Woolway and her teammates in doing some calendar-circling.
UC Irvine (Oct. 10) and Long Beach State (Oct. 12) soon come to The Pavilion. There is also a three-match homestand — Hawaii (Oct. 26), UCR (Oct. 31) and Fullerton (Nov. 2) — that has “important” written all over it.
Woolway says the 500 or so fans who have turned out for home games thus far have been “awesome.”
Aggie basketball players, gymnasts, field hockey players and other athletic-team members have made Pavilion crowds that much more enthusiastic.
“It makes me very proud that people want to take their evening and come watch us play,” Woolway adds. “It means a lot to me personally, and I know the girls on the team are humbled by it.
“It’s a great feeling seeing people in body paint cheering their heads off. It makes us want to perform and give them something good to watch.”
One can only wonder what that Halloween Night crowd has in store for the Highlanders …
Notes: UCD co-captain Devon Damelio has 831 career kills. … Senior setter Lindsay Dowd leads the Big West in aces per set (.381). … ”Bakersfield was one of the toughest opponents we’ve played so far,” Holmes told UCD media representatives. “They were scrappy, they were edgy, trash-talking under the net … they were playing without fear. To me, getting that ‘W’ was probably one of the more significant ‘Ws.’ To turn around and muster it up … against that particular team on that particular day. That showed a lot of character.” … Holmes needs just six wins to reach 100. At 94-69, Holmes is in her sixth season at UCD. … The Aggies have won eight of their last 10 matches after an 0-3 start in the LSU tourney. … Jenny is the daughter of Helaine and Tom Woolway. Tom was a rower at Loyola Marymount University.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.