Bet on the UC Davis field hockey squad being faster in 2014.
After a disappointing 6-14 campaign (4-5 in the NorPac Conference), there’s a new coach (Tiffany Huisman), new digs (the $3.2 million Aggie Field Hockey Facility) and a new mind-set.
With shorter turf, a longer bench and some young players champing at the bit for Sunday’s opener — a home match against Fairfield (Connecticut) — the Aggies could be an entertaining ticket.
After just two weeks of workouts, what does Huisman know about her charges?
“Honestly, it’s just about building this team now,” says the former Boston University assistant. “We’ve got a new philosophy, new direction and new tactics that we’re still trying to learn and implement.
“Building, growing from game to game is what we’re looking at right now.”
Huisman says ball speed undoubtedly will improve thanks to technique and playing surface. She also believes her charges will be in tip-top physical condition “so we can run with (opponents).”
Outshot (303-214) and outscored (63-34) last season, the Aggies could turn to a four-woman front line that should provide more firepower.
Former Huntington Beach High standout Kayla Wigney (owner of just three goals her freshman year) has caught Huisman’s eye:
“She will bring a strong presence. She’s quick, dynamic and can get some shots off.”
Vermont native Sophia Lisaius and ex-Rancho Santa Fe resident Stephie Sabraw will share time at center striker if the Ags go to three across, otherwise the two veterans will be together on the field, hopefully going bombs away on the attack.
Senior Lisaius and junior Sabraw each had 10 points for last year’s squad.
“They’re really strong … in setting the press and the tone in the forward line,” Huisman explains. “We have a good midfield line with Jamie Garca, one of our captains, leading at mid — and she does it quite well. She’s very poised on the ball.”
Garcia is a junior from Fallbrook High. She was the Aggies’ second-leading scorer (17 points) behind graduated Cloey LemMon’s 19 tallies in 2013. Garcia’s seven assists were a team high.
Hannah Drawbridge of Encinitas “has a high work rate” and is expected to trap and serve as a middie, as is Agustina Singh (Archbishop Mitty High), a great ball-handler and owner of seven points coming off of her freshman campaign.
“We feel we have strong leadership in the backfield,” continues Huisman, who points to another Mitty product, Martha Duterte, as someone who is “really taking the reins. I hope we can build (on her play) throughout the season.”
Courtney Hessler, yep, another Archbishop Mitty grad, also drew Huisman’s praise:
“She really is being strong … and helping ground that backfield.”
At keeper, Beth Lee — a Scripps Ranch High (San Diego) sophomore — will get the nod on Sunday. Huisman says Lee has been playing “really well, proving herself daily and working really hard.”
And that’s all Huisman is asking of her new field hockey team: work hard, show energy, improve.
“(Physically) the girls had to earn it,” adds Huisman, a stickler for good conditioning. “They earned it by meeting the fitness standards.
“Our game speed will be moving much faster on our new pitch. The field itself is helping set the tone and bringing that pride back into the program and into the players. It says, ‘Hey, we are Division I athletes.'”
Notes: After Sunday’s noon outing with East American Conference Fairfield (11-7 in 2013), UCD is away for four games before returning home to play Cal in the NorPac Conference opener on Sept. 19 (3 p.m.). A home game with Central Michigan follows on Sept. 21 (noon). … About the new facility: “This is an exciting step forward for the women’s field hockey program and one the university community will be very proud of,” UCD Athletic Director Terry Tumey said at last weekend’s stadium dedication. “This has been a dream for the program for several years and we’re thrilled to see it come to fruition.” The facility seats a hiccup over 200 and has U.S. Field Hockey-certified turf. … Boston U. grad and assistant Kate Murphy and Buffalo graduate Zach Miller have joined Huisman’s staff. … The NorPac schools are Appalachian State, Liberty and Pacific in the East Division and Stanford, Cal and UCD in the West.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.