New faces hope to push forward UCD women’s soccer

By From page C1 | August 17, 2014

Lots to get used to if you’re a UC Davis women’s soccer fan …

Former Pepperdine associate head coach Twila Kaufman has taken over the program.

Nine freshmen dot the locals’ roster.

And if Saturday’s scrimmage against Sonoma State is an indicator, there might be a passel of goals scored.

The Aggies tallied four times and looked sharp in handling the Division-II Seawolves before 254 sun-baked fans at Aggie Soccer Field.

But Kaufman, who liked most of what she saw in the three-period weekend practice outing, said there is plenty of room for improvement before Friday’s season opener at Sacramento State.

“One of our greatest strengths is our diversity — another is our depth,” Kaufman told The Enterprise after watching freshman Kayla Collins score twice while junior Mari Pastor handed out two assists. “I was happy with performances of some of the substitutes … but I wasn’t happy with our overall rhythm and ability to connect and play as a team.

“I think we can get a lot better there, especially at restart moments. We can get a little quicker.”

However, less than a week after the players reported, Kaufman sees promise wherever she looks …

Kaufman believes forward Lexi Poppoff and goalkeeper Taylor Jern (the only Aggie seniors) have been terrific “leading by example, helping the freshmen adjust.” The new coach also credits veteran forward Sienna Drizin and defender/midfielders Ana Marija Sola and Lindsey O’Tousa for making the first-year Aggies comfortable and immediate factors.

Is there a starting grid worked out yet?

“Everyone here is capable of starting … and now is the time for the cream to rise to the top,” says Kaufman, adding it’s too early to tell who is going where. “Players are battling for spots, and will continue to do so every week — that is one of the team strengths (competitiveness).”

“I feel our newcomers will make an immediate contribution … they’re ready to earn their playing time.”

Collins, a standout at Del Oro High, has served notice and sophomores Audrey Romano and Rachel Smith had the other two scores against Sonoma State. Does this mean UCD will go blowing past the 14 goals it scored during a 6-9-3 mark in coach Maryclaire Robinson’s last year?

“I think that one goal a game is enough to win,” explains Kaufman, a former University of Arizona four-year starter, whose new school has a 19-game schedule. “If we attack and score, I expect this group to defend our lead and find ways to increase it. To be honest, I’m not too worried about goal scoring because that is an element of the game that can fluctuate throughout the year.

“But we have numerous players who can score and become hot at various points of the season.

“Scoring goals is a natural byproduct of doing the right things at the right time — and that is what we’re focusing on now in practice.”

The Aggies have some must-see home matches before they venture into the always-contentious Big West Conference.

After games with the Hornets (5 p.m.) and San Diego State (Aug. 24) on the road, UCD hosts San Jose State (Aug. 29) and Quinnipiac (Aug. 31) before heading out to the Air Force Tournament in September.

The Aggie women are back home Sept. 12 and 14 to play San Francisco and Utah, then have games at Nevada (Sept. 19) and Santa Clara (Sept. 21) before hosting Pacific (Sept. 27) in their last nonconference contest.

Big West play starts Oct. 2 when UC Riverside comes calling.

“Something special is taking shape at UC Davis,” Kaufman promises. “This program wants to represent this community, find ways to support the community — both on and off the field. We appreciate (the fan’s) support.”

Notes: In addition to Collins, the other Aggie freshman are goalies Kate Hamilton (Garces Memorial High of Bakersfield) and Phoebe Wixson (Acalanes); midfielders Sydney Burger (Vanden), Dana Fujikuni (Moorpark) and Mandy McKeegan (Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach); defenders Summer Stamates (San Ramon Valley) and Karly Passmore (Bradshaw Christian); and forward Kelly Brady (South Pasadena). … “I am blessed to have this opportunity at UC Davis, where excellence is expected each day,” Kaufman says. “Student-athletes are working hard on the field, inside the classroom and in campus labs, administrators and staff are doing everything they can to help players succeed. The players are the biggest reason I was able to acclimate as quickly as I did … we’re each other’s second family.” … Manteca native Katie Riley (who played at Stanford and Florida State) and Robin Grossman (formerly of Air Force) are Kaufman’s assistant coaches.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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