2011 Preview – UC Davis Dogs

by | December 23, 2010, 3:00pm 0

[stextbox id=”alert” color=”050505″ bcolor=”6cc3f8″ bgcolor=”ffffff” big=”true” image=”null”]School Name: UC Davis
Team Name: Dogs
Captains: Taylor Lahey,  Robby Merk
Year Founded: 1980
Jersey Colors: White/Blue/Yellow
Website: ucdavisultimate.com
2010 Record: 19-11
Score Reporter

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with Ultimate at UC Davis?

Robby Merk: I am a junior at UC Davis, and I first came out for the Dogs as a freshman. I had fooled around a little with the sport in high school, but I was immediately hooked when I first experienced higher level college Ultimate.

How did UC Davis do last year? What was the highlight of your season?

Merk: Last year the Dogs finished fifth in the Northwest region. Though we were disappointed with our overall ranking, there was no doubt that our team had made tremendous strides in making the program stronger.

Davis gets an upfield throw on Puget Sound at Northwest Regionals

Who is your favorite team to play against?

Merk: Our favorite team to play has to be Stanford. With their history of producing high quality teams it was a major source of pride for us to beat them each time we played them this year. Our game against them at sectionals was particularly memorable. It was the first game of the day on Sunday, and we came out as fired up as I’ve ever seen our team. Our sidelines won that game, both with cheering and calling instructions to players.

Tell us about your captains and coaches. What do they bring to your team?

Merk: As of now the Dogs don’t have a coach. Luckily we do have tons of former players who are still excited about helping the program and can teach various skills. Whether or not one or both of our head coaches from last year, Eric Halverson and Kevin Cissna, might choose to return remains a question. Taylor Lahey, a fifth year senior, has been playing ultimate since early in his high school years. He has a reputation for fierceness and intensity on the field, as well as killer hucks and tough to cover quickness. He is an excellent teacher and is able to convey his experience to younger players.

Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year?

Merk: The batch of freshman and rookies who have come out in the fall have had an immediate impact. Eli Kearns was among the youngest players on the championship winning mixed team Polar Bears, and also has a Junior Worlds gold medal to his name. Look out for David Hwang and Nate White to make a huge impact in their first seasons as well. Both were on the Bay Area team that took first at YCC and have a maturity on the field beyond their years.

What players are likely to make big plays?

Merk: The Lahey connection was an extremely potent weapon last year. This year it could become even better. Taylor Lahey’s hucks and sophomore Patrick Lahey’s ability to catch any disc make them a formidable brotherly duo. Patrick is as dangerous in the air as he is for a quick undercut. Ben Hubbard is a gifted cutter who can use his height to his advantage in the deep game or catch an under pass easily. Paul Riemenschneider has come up with some huge D’s for the Dogs. Though his signature is a layout past the defender, he is also a steady mark and can leap to snatch away swilly passes.

Who’s a player you have to watch more carefully to see how valuable they are to your team?

Merk: Jake Ellis, a junior, has been a steady influence since his freshman year. Though he is extremely capable of making huge plays, he is even more valuable for the hustle that he brings in every point. Jake also has the ability to go into a sixth gear. When girls are watching he is unstoppable.

Dogs can Jump! Davis over Carleton GOP. - Photo by Alexander Yuen

How does your team bring new players up to speed on Ultimate?

Merk: We are taking a different approach to the fall quarter teaching this year. We are trying to give rookies a comfortable atmosphere to learn in, but also a little trial by fire. Seeing how people react is a good way to figure out what people need to work on. This year we’ve had a particularly enjoyable fall because the rookies have exceeded our expectations on and off the field.

Without giving too much away, what does UC Davis like to do on offense and defense?

Merk: We have tried to style our offense to take advantage of our speed and our depth. Though we are a young team we have great confidence in both rookie and veteran cutters. We pride ourselves on strong cuts, ideally with option after option for the handler to work with. On defense we try to work for position relentlessly. Being one step ahead of the cutter flummoxes other teams.

Has your team set any goals for this season?

Merk: Our only goal is to improve. We want to do this in every way: with our preparation, our team mentality, and our execution. So far we have achieved this, but it is a goal that doesn’t end.

What has UC Davis been doing this fall to prepare for the spring season?

Merk: With a very young team we have spent most of our time trying to put the rookies a little over their heads, and they have swum well. Cutting in game time situations has been our biggest focus so far. Something that the rookies have picked up without anyone talking about it has been playing well in any weather situation. We want to play our game in the spring without letting irrelevant details like wind and rain slow us down.

A Davis player makes a sick grab over some old guy!

What tournaments do you plan to attend in the spring? Which one are you most looking forward to?

Merk: We plan on going to Presidents Day in San Diego after going to Trouble in Vegas the last two years. We believe it will be a good test for us, especially now that we are in the Southwest Region. We also plan on expanding the Davis Ultimate Invite, a challenge that we look forward to.

What do you think about the USA Ultimate College restructuring ?

Merk: Nothing changes for us within our conference really. Our rivals are still there. It will be a change to play regionals in California after facing the rainy northwest the last two years. There are many quality teams, and we will have to gauge teams that we’re not as familiar with during earlier tournaments.

Which team has the best shot at winning the 2011 USA Ultimate College Championships?

Merk: No idea. Possibly Oregon.

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