How do you replace the Aggies’ No. 2 and 3 all-time scorers — Jessica Dunn and Carmen Eggert — if you’re the UC Davis women’s water polo team?
“You don’t,” veteran UCD coach Jamey Wright said as his team prepares to open the season on Saturday at home against No. 5 California.
“But we have to.”
Gone are Dunn’s 208 scores. Gone are Eggert’s 189 goals. Only Tiffany Hodgens (2000-02) was more prolific (355) in Aggie history.
As if it’s not tough enough figuring out where you stand after losing that duo, Wrights hopes he can quickly sort out his goalkeeper situation, too, as UCD also lost netminder Riane Woods to graduation.
Together the trio earned six All-American honorable mentions and 10 All-Big West Conference appointments.
Before shedding any tears for the 2014 Aggie women, fans should know that Wright has the nucleus for a nice run — and he believes with Dunn and Eggert off in the real world — well, it could be a good thing.
“We’ve got to get more balanced with our scoring, which I think is a healthy thing anyway,” says Wright, who is entering his 31st year at UCD. “That’s what we’ve been working on for the last two months.”
Wright adds that his new go-to women are getting more comfortable with their roles:
“Last year … it was ‘Where’s Jessica? Where’s Carmen?’ (This season’s players) are a year older with a year more understanding that if it’s the shot to take, take the shot!”
After going 15-17 last season (1-6 in the loaded Big West), the 18th-ranked Aggies have talent at every position.
Senior center Hannah Curran and attackers Keelia Houston, Erin Schlueter and Alex Rawlinson return, and Colorado State transfer Ariel Arcidiacono adds new firepower.
Allyson Hansen — out last year with a knee injury — also is back. Wright says she is “our fastest swimmer … tall and strong. Being left-handed, she provides a better angle at the goal from the right.”
Elsie Fullerton (19 goals) returns from injury issues and Wright expects freshmen Carla Tocchini (St. Ignatius S.F. Prep) and Hannah Harvey (Clovis High) to be “instant contributors.”
Curran, a 6-foot-1 senior by way of College Park High (Pleasant Hill), scored 33 goals last year and gets her big chance in the middle beginning Saturday.
The versatile Houston (65 points) and Fullerton are two of four Davis High graduates in the Aggie pool.
Coach Wright’s daughter Hailey is a sophomore utility/defender and second-year goalie Haley Cameron is in competition with junior Jillian Wilding to replace Woods in front of the cage.
Wilding made 81 saves in her seven starts after Woods was injured in 2013.
Hailey Wright and Cameron were teammates with Houston and Fullerton at DHS, a school that local fans know has won the last five Sac-Joaquin Section crowns.
Fullerton will be held out of the Cal match — nursing another injury — but coach Wright says she’ll be back soon: “Don’t want to rush it. With Elsie out of the mix, it’s really killing me.”
Tocchini is expected to be a giant Aggie threat at 2-meters, according to Wright. Tocchini scored 255 goals in her prep career.
Harvey, a 5-11 utility torpedo, is somebody who Wright believes will pay dividends counter-attacking.
Don’t forget about CSU transfer Arcidiacono. The Rams discontinued women’s water polo after the San Diego native scored a school-record 73 goals last spring.
And there’s more. Seriously.
Schlueter (52 points) is a senior attacker from Tamalpais High who had what UCD observers are calling a “breakout season,” in 2013.
Rawlinson is a fifth-year senior attacker who was solid as a distributor last year, drawing Wright’s praise:
“She has kind of worked her way up. Just blue-collar … She’s going to play a lot of minutes, if not start for us. She’s come a long, long way.”
Given the talent, the openings and the always-rugged schedule, this crowded house called Aggie women’s water polo could see its most intense competition coming at Schaal Aquatics Center — during practices.
Notes: Speaking of Schaal, the Bears and Aggies splash down at 1 p.m. Saturday. In UCD’s varsity era, Cal is 24-0 against the locals. … The Collegiate Water Polo Association’s first women’s poll of the season has the Aggies ranked 18th. But before fans start doing backflips, it should be noted that the other five Big West pool squads are ranked higher: UC Irvine (No. 6), Hawaii (7), Long Beach State (11), Cal State Northridge (14) and UC Santa Barbara (17). About 70 U.S. universities compete in women’s water polo. … The Aggie Shootout — set for Feb. 14-16 — features No. 2 Stanford, No. 8 San Jose State, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal State East Bay, Sonoma State and the UCD alumnae game. … Of the 17 local losses last year, eight were by one goal. Wright says working on doing a better job converting 6-on-5 opportunities, say 50 percent — while holding opponents under 35 percent — will put some of those close games in the W-column for the Aggies.
—Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-320-4456.