Ryan McCowan has experienced a lot for being only a sophomore.
From taking over the spot as starting goalkeeper midway through the 2007 season to becoming one of the premier goalies in the Big West Conference, McCowan has had a successful ride to the top.
After blanking UC Santa Barbara 2-0 this past Saturday, Aggie Sports Writer Max Rosenblum sat down with McCowan to discuss his initial – as well as current – success, his decision to come to UC Davis and dinner with his defense.
Last season you stepped in to play goalie as a true freshman in the middle of the season as your team was making a push toward the NCAA Championships. How did it feel to have all that pressure on you as a freshman?
It was pretty tough at first and I was usually pretty nervous before the games, especially the first couple. But my team was always right behind me and supporting me. I had a lot of support from the coaches … so I wasn’t second-guessing myself. All I had to worry about was playing my best and not proving myself. My team helped me out as much as they could and I think we all played well to get to where we were last year.
Now, as a sophomore, you are the keeper for an 11-1-1 team that is ranked No. 7 nationally. How does that feel?
It feels really good. I have never been a part of something like this. I have played on some good teams before but never anything as high as this. I knew that the team was good seeing the players every day. You have high hopes for stuff like this. I didn’t really set goals for how high our team would go in the rankings, but it just gets better and better each week as we go.
You just ended UCSB’s 31-game scoring streak. What was that accomplishment like?
It felt really good and our whole team played really well. My defense has been playing excellent all year and they played another excellent game Saturday. They really made it easy on me. They stepped high and I was able to cheat up a little bit and collect everything that was coming in. I didn’t really have to make any outstanding plays. It was just routine stuff. They cut everything else off and I just picked up the garbage.
Based on your short time here, describe the UC Davis-UCSB rivalry compared to the matchups you have with other teams.
Last year – especially our game at home – was kind of ridiculous. The referee didn’t really take control of the game. There were nonstop fouls and it has always kind of been like that. Even before I came here, I watched the UCSB games and they have always been really rough. At the same time it is what we look for. They are a really good team and that’s the team that we have always looked up to and have been chasing. Now, it seems like we have switched positions. We always use that as incentive. We say, “What do you think Santa Barbara is doing right now?” to work harder.
What is your favorite accomplishment in a little under two years here?
Gaining the confidence of the team because that is the best thing that you can do, especially with the older guys. Of course they were going to back me up last year because I was a freshman and they wanted me to not feel nervous. But now you can see that they are really starting to have respect for me. They have my back in any situation and that’s better than any other accomplishment. Our team accomplishment is what we are doing right now. We are coming out and playing every game like we should. Our discipline is better so hopefully we will just keep improving throughout the year.
What other schools recruited you and what made you decide to come to UC Davis?
I was looking at Oregon State, San Diego State and California. But it came down to Oregon State and here. I like the coaches better and I had a better chance of playing early. It worked out really well. I thought the team here was a lot of fun when I came up on my visit and that was my ultimate decision.
In practice, which one of your teammates‘ shots do you get the most excited about stopping?
It is probably [senior] Dylan [Curtis] because he has the hardest shot on the team. He might not place it sometimes but he will just rip it at you. If it is not right at you it is pretty tough to save. Especially in pre-games, I always want to get one or two saves to get my confidence up for the game. We have a lot of guys on the team who can shoot, but Dylan has a rocket.
What are your predictions, hopes or goals for the remainder of the season?
Our coach [Dwayne Shaffer] keeps saying that we just got to finish in the top four of the league so we can get to the league tournament. I have higher expectations than that. I think he does, too. He just doesn’t want to spell it out. I know all of our players want to finish first and we know we can. Then we want to go as deep into the [NCAA] tournament as we can.
In football, sometimes a quarterback will take his offensive line out to dinner because they protect him. Do you or would you ever do that for your defense for protecting you?
I haven’t taken them out to dinner but I think the defense and I have a really good relationship. We always have each other’s back no matter what happens. As a group, we always pick each other up. When one of us is playing down or not very well, the other three guys will pick [him] up. I wouldn’t say I take them out to dinner or anything like that but we definitely have camaraderie there.
So would you ever take them to dinner or treat them in a way?
I probably would. They have saved me various times throughout the year.
Which one of your teammates, whether in practice or in a game, do you enjoy watching the most?
I respect every player on the team. One player I have a lot of respect for is [senior] Ian Conklin. He works 100 percent every game and every practice and doesn’t really expect any praise for it. That is just how he plays. He will listen to anyone on the team whether he is a freshman or senior. I have a lot of respect for him and that is why I like watching him play.
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at email@example.com.