Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series previewing the UC Davis fall sports.
With leading points-getters Jamie Garcia and Cloey LemMon returning, UC Davis interim field hockey coach Austin Pile knows he has a high pair to draw to.
In addition, a new style of attack should add excitement and goals (and wins?) to an Aggie campaign one year removed from an 8-12 record and former head coach Vianney Campos.
Pile, who was an assistant under Campos and named as program custodian in May, got UCD Athletic Director Terry Tumey’s nod to handle the season just last month.
“We were always preparing, just in case,” Pile said, adding that he and his staff “wanted to hit the ground running. It’s been a pretty seamless transition.”
And a new direction, at least as the offense is concerned …
After scoring only 46 goals in 20 games in 2012, Pile looks to build around sophomore midfielder Garcia and senior forward LemMon. Between them, the pair had 41 points, including eight goals for forward LemMon and six for midfielder Garcia.
“That duo will be carrying the load on the field and be mentors off,” Pile told The Enterprise. “Both seem like they’re up for the challenge. They’ve been leaders at every level, and I’m sure they’ll step into both roles.”
In an effort to pump up the offense, Pile will play three women up front with a timing style that anticipates movement rather than passing to a body.
“We’re passing to where we know that person is going to be … instead of being in front (of a defender to accept a pass), the defenders will be at their backs,” the Colorado State graduate and former U.S. Junior National Men’s Team member explained. “We hope having that more-motion offense will allow us to create more opportunities for ourselves.”
And within that pass-to-a-spot attack, Pile plans to keep his troops fresh.
In addition to LemMon and Garcia, forwards like true freshman Augustina Singh (Archbishop Mitty) and Kayla Wigney (Huntington Beach) are expected to join redshirt frosh Danielle Koehne (Leigh, San Jose), sophomore Stephie Sabraw and junior Sophia Lisaius in ice hockey-style line changes.
“Then it’s not only about receiving the ball,” Pile said of his new plan of attack. “But (we have) to take the shot when it presents itself.”
Garcia should be among the key enablers, but junior Megan Reardon and sophomores Hannah Drawbridge and Emily Costa will play emerging roles in trapping and distributing the ball from their midfielder posts.
“With two lines up front, it should make for a greater tempo and higher energy,” Pile added.
Defensively, Carly Schoch and fourth-year starter Mattie Maloney are rock-solid. Linnea Whitney and Martha Duterte are back-line sophomores expected to see playing time, and Pile welcomes freshmen Eden Borsack (La Costa Canyon, Escondido) and Katriona Jackson (La Reina Prep, Moorpark) to the defensive family.
Between the pipes, there’s a healthy competition percolating with senior goalkeeper Danielle Herrington and sophomore Erica Cohen.
“Both are working extremely hard,” Pile says of his net-minders, who have been splitting time in practices. “I have confidence in either one being in the cage. We can go with either woman and be in position to win. It’s a friendly competition.”
After an Aug. 30 meeting with Missouri State at Aggie Stadium kicks of the regular season, the Aggies go on an eight-game road trip, not returning home until Oct. 6 for their NorPac West opener against Stanford (marking the second of only four UCD home games).
Do the Aggies have the sticks to win a conference crown?
“I think we do,” said Pile, whose women were 3-3 in league in Campos’ final season. “Every year we improve. This is the best shape we’ve ever been in. We took summer training very seriously. Most players stayed here all summer.
“This year, our focus is on winning all our home games, beating Stanford for the first at home and beating Cal at home and in Berkeley.
“If we can reach those team goals, then that would put us in a great position to win the western conference and give us a No. 1 seed going into the tournament.”
Notes: The NorPac Conference is split between coasts. Pile says there are only five Division I field hockey programs west of the Central Time Zone — Iowa and NorPac West members Pacific, UCD, Cal and Stanford. The league’s eastern grouping has Appalachia State, Liberty, Davidson, Radford and Longwood. The conference tourney will be played Nov. 7-9 at Liberty. It was due to be a West Coast affair this fall, but both Stanford and Cal are refurbishing their field hockey facilities. … The Aggies graduated 11 seniors, including offensive-minded Nadia Namdari and Marissa Hughes. … Whit Ryan (defense and goalkeepers) and Mary Kathryn Nielsen (midfielders) are Pile’s assistants. … The other two UCD home games are against Cal (Oct. 13) and Pacific (Nov. 1).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.