UC Davis Lacrosse: Preview for the 2014 Season

DAVIS, Calif. -- 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."

Along those lines, UC Davis fields five team captains: senior midfielder Carly Voris, junior midfielder Elizabeth Landry, junior attacker Meghan Jordan, junior defender Allie Lehner and junior midfielder Sara Quero. The coaching staff identified these players for their leadership abilities last season. The captains' eagerness to "buy in" with the new regime has set the table for a season that Henwood expects to move Aggie women's lacrosse a step forward.

The captains bring different skills to the table, both on and off the field, making them ideal representatives for UC Davis LAX 2.0. Voris is a 6-foot defender-turned-midfielder whose background in basketball - she helped Mount Carmel High to a pair of San Diego Section titles as a prepster - gives her an unconventional athleticism, says Henwood. "We call her 'the Avatar' because she can do amazing things that no one sees coming."

Landry is less likely to sneak up on UC Davis opponents, yet will difficult to contain nonetheless. She captured first-team All-MPSF and co-MPSF Newcomer of the Year honors as a freshman. Landry was particularly tough against the conference teams in 2013, scoring 18 of her 24 goals and notching six of her seven assists in MPSF contests. Only halfway through her career, the Lafayette, Calif. native already sits in striking range of surpassing Mirza's career draw controls record and becoming just the ninth player to reach 100 career goals.

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