Senior midfielder Ahmad Hatifie scores his first goal of the season from 15 yards out to the top left corner.
The Aggie faithful go wild. Hatifie leaps the brick barrier separating the fans from the field and jumps into the crowd.
And then he does it again. Not even five minutes later, Hatifie hits from the exact same spot – almost like an instant replay.
“The ball bounced our way – well my way,” Hatifie said. “The past couple of years, every time I would get that shot it would hit the cross bar. I am known for hitting the cross bar, but today it bounced my way.”
Hatifie’s heroics were more than enough to send the capacity crowd at Aggie Soccer Stadium home happy with a 4-1 win over Air Force.
“This is a good win for us because it keeps us confident,” senior forward Quincy Amarikwa said. “This is something that we can carry into the next game. We really wanted to work on our effort this game because we came out a little lax against Sac State. We let a team that we should have buried hang in the game when we shouldn’t have.
“This was the game to prove to ourselves that we can switch it on when we need to get going so this is good for us.“
Amarikwa started off the Aggie scoring brigade. Assisted by senior midfielder Sule Anibaba, Amarikwa squeezed past two Air Force defenders, juked out the Falcon goalie, and gently tapped the ball into the back of the net.
“Their defense was sitting high and we just needed to take advantage of that ball,” Amarikwa said. “Sule found me on that one. I told him to get it to me and I would do the rest, and it worked out.“
Anibaba also assisted on one of Hatifie’s two scores to collect his first two assists of the season.
The Aggies not only outscored the Falcons, but outplayed them in almost every major statistical category – including a 16-3 advantage in shots.
“That has sort of been a reoccurring theme for us in the majority of our games this year,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said. “I always try to encourage my team to just go, go, go at the goal because it’s college soccer and I like putting pressure on the other team by doing that.“
And the Aggies went, went, went, but not without the help of the proverbial 12th man – the Aggie Pack – whose members stayed until the final whistle.
“To play in front of a big crowd like that – it’s awesome,” Shaffer said. “It makes the student-athletes play that much better. I really appreciate the Aggie Pack.“
“It is nice playing in front of a big crowd,” Amarikwa said. “Our fans here want to support us now and come out and see a good game.“
But now UC Davis will go Aggie Pack-less when it plays its first conference game Wednesday at No. 23 UC Irvine.
“They are going to be ready,” Hatifie said. “We just have to go in, do what we’ve got to do.“
“I know the Big West is probably the most dominant conference on the West Coast now,” Shaffer said. “There are just so many good teams in our conference.… It is just a battle. Every single conference game is an absolute battle. I am expecting Irvine to be another great game … but if we are clicking on all cylinders, we can make it difficult on our opponents.“
As the Aggies‘ schedule increases in difficulty, Amarikwa guarantees that nothing in their game plan will change.
He says that the team will view conference opponents like every other team, and that the team will not change its level of play based on whom it is playing.
Amarikwa and Shaffer are on the same page, as Shaffer has the team grounded and assures the best has yet to come with this group of fine young soccer studs.
“I don’t think we have hit our peak yet,” Shaffer said. “I don’t feel like we have had one game where every player on the team has played to the best of his ability. Once that happens I think we can be really, really good.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.