The No. 12 UC Davis men’s soccer team showed up at the Davis Graduate Monday afternoon to learn its NCAA Tournament fate.
The Aggies expected either a first-round bye or home playoff match at Aggie Soccer Stadium on Saturday.
They got exactly what they wanted, earning a home date with Denver on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We are persevering as a team,” said senior midfielder Sule Anibaba. “Last year we just barely got in. We have done all it takes. It still hasn’t kicked in. UC Davis is playing a playoff game at home. It’s unreal. There will be a lot of energy on the field that day.“
This team is a far cry from last year’s squad in that it’s not just excited to make the tournament. This year, the Aggies (12-4-4, 4-2-4 Big West Conference) are looking for a win.
“It is much better this year,” Anibaba said. “Last year the emotion took over. We were so hyped and jacked up at the fact that we just got in. It didn’t kick in for a while.“
After falling to California in the first round of last year’s tournament, a playoff win would mean everything to the program’s development.
“That would top everything we’ve done,” Anibaba said.
“A year after already making it, you only want to do better than you did,” said senior co-captain Dylan Curtis. “We know what it is like to make the first round so we want to one-up that this year. It is much more goal-focused than just being happy to be there.“
The visiting Denver Pioneers are 10-6-2 on the season and champions of Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
“All we want to do is go in against Denver and play the best game we can,” Curtis said. “That’s all that you can ask for in terms of effort and formation. We have to do everything that we have been practicing or it is just a waste. All we have to work on is beating Denver. That is the only thing on our minds.“
Text by Max Rosenblum