5 Aggies Who Won 2017 Sport Club Championships

And Why These Champs Love Their Teams at UC Davis

Vicky Zhao, 2017 top university sport club boxer, spars with her coach, Hector Lopez
Trophy-winner Vicky Zhao, a psychology and philosophy double major, spars with her coach, Hector Lopez, during Boxing Club practice in The Pavilion. (Nicole Sullivan/UC Davis)

Get Involved in UC Davis Sports

Once again, Aggie athletes in our UC Davis sport clubs captured the gold in  2017 national championship tournaments, bringing home three team and two individual titles.

Though the five students you are about to meet joined sport clubs for different reasons, they all agree that the experience, culminating with national championships, was the highlight of their college careers.

Perhaps women’s rugby team champion Rebecca Graff sums it up best: “Everything we do and produce is solely based on our passion for the sport and for each other.”

Learn about the clubs and their members who hold 2017 national titles.

Vicky Zhao ’17, Boxing Club

Vicky Zhao is reigning champ with an individual gold to her name in the UC Davis Boxing Club. This club operates within the National Collegiate Boxing Association Western Division under coach Hector Lopez, who once qualified for the Olympic Team USA.

Vicky, a psychology and philosophy double major, says she has a lot of respect for her coach, who was encouraging and supportive. An added benefit of being in a sport club, she points out, is learning to navigate between school and play.

“The Boxing Club taught me to be disciplined and focused, and helped me to be a better student,” Vicky says. “I think it is a process of self-discovery. You don’t know how strong you can be until you’re pushed to the limit constantly. I think that’s how champions are made.”

Boxing Club quick facts: This team competes primarily against schools in Northern California and Nevada. Open tryouts are held every quarter. To see what it’s like, drop by the Activities and Recreation Center Pavilion, upper-west corner, 5-7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Email club member Surya Jones for more information.

Victoria Henderson ’17, Gymnastics Club

Victoria Henderson, 2017 national champion in sports club gymnastics
National title winner Victoria Henderson gained leadership skills by being in the Gymnastics Club. (Solon Yiu/UC Davis)

Another individual title-winner, psychology major Victoria Henderson, served as president of the Gymnastics Club last academic year. Victoria was especially pleased how much she learned being in the club beyond walkovers and handsprings.

“Taking advantage of the resources, facilities and leadership opportunities taught me invaluable lessons that I cherish and take with me into the professional world,” she says.

Sport clubs are managed and run by students themselves. Participants enjoy the rewards of intense competition and learn how to collaborate, lead, problem-solve and obtain financial management skills.

Gymnastic Club quick facts: The club has both competitive and recreational members with diverse skill levels. You don’t need experience to join. The club practices 6-9:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in Lower Hickey Gym. Email Paige Nelson at the club email for more information.

Amanda Flannery, Taekwondo Club

Taekwondo club member leaping in the air with a kick
UC Davis can claim the best in the nation for sport club taekwondo. Here Andrew Cao, a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, breaks a board with a flying side kick. (Micheal Chow/UC Davis)

Spanish and human development double major Amanda Flannery, who led her coed team to victory last academic year as president, is amazed at all the progress the Taekwondo Club has made in her time at UC Davis.

“I saw our team start with two-to-four people competing and expand to close to 40,” she says. “Although this sport is made for individuals, it is the team that allows us to grow.”

Since placing first in the National Collegiate Taekwondo Association for the 2017 combined and colored belt divisions, club members have their sights set on winning first in the black belt division next year.

Taekwondo Club quick facts: Open for beginning and advanced practitioners, this club offers instruction for traditional as well as Olympic styles of the martial art. It meets 8:30-10:10 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 10:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Saturday and 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday, all in the Activities and Recreation Center’s Martial Arts Room. Email Keith Makishima for more information.

Rebecca Graff, Women’s Rugby Club

The UC Davis  Women's Rugby Team Sport Club
Women’s Rugby Club members play on two teams in fall and winter, with the competitive season occurring during winter quarter. (Alexander Park/UC Davis)
Rebecca Graff
Rebecca Graff

The No. 1 nationally ranked Women’s Rugby Club is in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I with A and B teams. During the fall, the two teams in the club play in many friendly preseason tournaments in the fall, while the official league games take place during the winter quarter.

Rebecca Graff, a nutrition science major and the current club president, says she finds being in the club and in a leadership position an enjoyable outlet.

“I believe college should be more than just textbooks and tests,” Rebecca says. “It’s also about having fun and gaining life experiences outside the classroom. Joining a sport club can give you those opportunities.” 

Women’s Rugby Club quick facts: Most of the players join with no experience, and all levels of experience are welcome. Join them 8-10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday on north Hutchison Field. Email Rebecca Graff for more information.

Sofia Caryotakis, Women’s Water Polo Club

Sofia Caryotakis, member of the UC Davis Women's Water Polo Team
Sofia Caryotakis, a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, made her best friends in the Women’s Water Polo Club where she serves as president this year. (Nicole Garcia/UC Davis)

Sofia Caryotakis, a neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, will be club president this school year for the Women’s Water Polo Club. The club, with its two nationally ranked teams, competes during the winter and spring quarters and trains year-round.

Sofia dove into her role as president to serve the community within her club.

“The club introduced me to my best friends,” Sofia says. “It was an immediate network of friendship, guidance and support.”

Women’s Water Polo Club fast fact: The club practices in Schaal Pool noon-2 p.m. on Sunday and in Hickey Pool 7-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email Sofia Caryotakis to learn more about the club.

Students like Sofia who get involved with sport clubs develop personally and leave with great memories of their team’s fun experiences, but that isn’t all they take away. Most discover a UC Davis family in their coaches and teammates, and forge bonds that last a lifetime.

Montana Strohl-Roy is a 2016 graduate of UC Davis with dual majors in communication and psychology. She currently works as a content specialist for Student Affairs Marketing and Communications.

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