On Oct. 13, the Aggies (11-2-2) became the No. 7 team in the nation and were flying high after a win at then No. 15 UC Santa Barbara.
This week, however, didn’t fare as well for the Aggies as they suffered their first Big West Conference defeat at the hands of UC Riverside, 2-1.
“It was an accumulation of a couple of things,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said. “There was complacency from the players after the UCSB victory at their place. We didn’t have a very good week of training and we were tired. Plus losing our senior captain Ahmad Hatifie to a devastating injury finally took its toll.
“We didn’t play bad but we didn’t play like the 2008 team that we are accustomed to seeing.“
Without the help of senior forward and leading scorer Quincy Amarikwa, who was out due to yellow card accumulation, the Aggies dropped their first conference game when junior midfielder Xavier Perez scored for the Highlanders in the 87th minute.
“To not have Quincy on the field hurt us,” Shaffer said. “He is our most competitive player and the team feeds off of him.“
UC Davis fell behind in the 30th minute on a UC Riverside score.
Senior midfielder Dylan Curtis then knotted the score at 1-1 off a penalty kick in the 77th minute.
But 10 minutes later, Perez put the game and the shorthanded Aggies away with his score that deflected off goalie Ryan McCowan and into the net.
Shaffer still sees positives in the way his team played this week, especially against Cal State Fullerton.
“The Fullerton game helped our players prove that they can come back in games,“ he said.
Without the services of Hatifie for the rest of the season, the Aggies are looking for someone to step up and take the leadership role Hatifie held.
“I hope one of our players can step in to be a leader that Ahmad has been,” said Shaffer.
Even with the loss, UC Davis remains at the top of the Big West standings as the team heads into its final four matches of the season. The first of which comes Wednesday at home against Cal State Northridge.
“[Cal State] Northridge is undefeated in Big West this season,” Shaffer said. “They are an excellent team. It comes down to a four-game season and whether the players want to experience the postseason.
“It is up to the players to make sure individually they are ready to play. We have the talent to do it. The coaches can only do so much. At some point the players have to go out and play. It is up to the players to face the challenge in front of them.“
However, Shaffer is happy about where his team stands right now.
“To be 11-2-2 and at the top of the Big West – I will take that,“ he said. “You’re always going to win a game you shouldn’t win and lose a game that you shouldn’t lose. Everyone is so good that that’s going happen.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.