Since reforming in 2008, the UC Davis women’s field hockey team has been determined to posture itself as a force in the NorPac Conference West Division.
And after the Aggies clinched second place in the division with a 4-1 victory over Pacific on Sunday, there is no question that the program is making strides. The No. 2 spot is a new best for the fledgling program.
“We knew that building the program was going to be a process,” said UCD head coach Vianney Campos. “Our biggest focus has been to build a foundation and create a culture. These four years have really been about that.
“It’s to the point where we’re starting to get recruits that see the program and are believing in it, so the skill level of recruits we’re bringing in is higher.”
Freshman Jamie Garcia, a midfielder from Fallbrook, has made it clear that Aggie recruits can work wonders. She leads UCD in assists with eight total and is also one of the top scorers with 16 points.
As a testament to her solid performance, Garcia has earned the NorPac Field Hockey Conference West Division Rookie of the Week four times this season.
She is backed by the leadership of 11 Aggie seniors. Many of these experienced women — including goalie Conley Craven — were on board for the UCD program’s reboot.
The veteran defense is anchored by seniors Casey Wollbrinck and Kelly Dudek. Both of these players have received NorPac honors in 2012.
Senior forwards Marissa Hughes and Nadia Namdari, who was named the NorPac Field Hockey Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, also have done their part by ensuring that the opponents’ nets are always threatened.
“We’ve had a lot of great contributions in different roles throughout the season,” Campos said.
The pressure is mounting for these local women as they enter the NorPac Tournament at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., as the No. 2 seed from the West. UCD’s first matchup is Davidson, the No. 3 seed from the East, at 8 a.m. Thursday.
If the Aggies win their bout with Davidson, they are likely to face off with familiar foes, including Stanford (No. 1 in the West) or Cal (No. 3). The tournament winner will advance to an NCAA Tournament play-in game on Tuesday.
“We’re playing some teams that we’ve played in the past, so we understand their style now,” Campos said. “We have to bring our ‘A game,’ there’s no doubt about it … We have to lay everything out on the field and give it everything we have, because it’s going to be a battle.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052.