Aggies face George Mason (Friday) and Old Dominion (Sunday)
Sometime during the first week of February, Kate Henwood printed out a numeral 7 in approximately 500-point type, and tacked that piece of paper on her office wall.
That number represents UC Davis’ position in the 2014 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation women’s lacrosse preseason poll, and the second-year head coach decided to make it a prominent and daily reminder of what she plans on accomplishing this season, which begins this weekend with road games at George Mason (Friday) and Old Dominion (Sunday).
“I actually smiled when I saw the preseason rankings because I expected to be there,” said Henwood. “That’s exactly where we like to be. I like being the predator hiding in the bushes. That element of surprise can be a huge advantage.”
On paper, being chosen seventh of a 10-team conference is a fair assessment by the other coaches. UC Davis went 6-9 overall and 3-5 in MPSF play in 2013. The Aggies enjoyed some encouraging performances, particularly the season-ending overtime victory of then-No. 14 Stanford — a highlight worthy of Lacrosse Magazine’s “Best Upset of 2013” selection.
Furthermore, last year’s team graduated several of the program’s top individual performers in history. Elizabeth Datino and Hannah Mirza finished as the school’s No. 2 and No. 4 all-time scorers. Datino also set the UC Davis career record for assists while Mirza broke a six-year-old benchmark in draw controls. Anna Geissbuhler finished as one of the program’s career leaders in shooting percentage, Tess Alekna had been a two-year force on defense, and speedy Stephanie Guercio rated as one of the best north-to-south weapons in the conference during her last two seasons.
As talented as that crew was, Henwood recognizes the challenges thrust upon them in transitioning to a new coaching staff, and by extension, a new offense, defense and overall culture. This year’s veterans have now benefitted from a year-plus under Henwood and assistant coach Amanda Kammes, and it has already shown in the fall and preseason. “We had phenomenal athletes and great lacrosse players in last year’s senior class, but I feel we’re a better team this year,” said Henwood. “We have leadership who understands our expectations… they just get it.”