The UC Davis men’s soccer team looks to make history once again.
Already the school’s first team to qualify for multiple NCAA Division I Tournaments, the Aggies will be gunning for the first playoff win in UC Davis history when they play host to Denver at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Head coach Dwayne Shaffer recently sat down with Aggie Sports Editor Adam Loberstein before practice to discuss everything from what a postseason win would mean to his program to why fans should arrive early come Saturday.
What are the differences between making your first NCAA Tournament last season and qualifying for it again this season?
Last year, we were just kind of happy to be there. This year, it was expected that we were going to make the NCAA Tournament again. Gaining all that experience by qualifying for the tournament last season – we’re an established program now. I felt like we started to weather everybody’s best game and all that experience helped us all the way through that.
The men’s soccer program is UC Davis’ first to qualify for back-to-back Division I tournaments, as well as host a home playoff game. What does that mean to you and your program?
I think it’s a tribute to the university, the athletics department and to the program itself. Everybody has worked hard to help us get to this level.… We’re constantly trying to figure out ways to make the program better. Who to play, who to recruit – that’s all we think about as coaches. It’s a 24/7 job.
UC Davis is ranked ahead of UC Santa Barbara in three of four national polls. The Gauchos, however, received a first-round bye, while your team has to play on Saturday. What’s your reaction to that?
I do think we should be ranked ahead of Santa Barbara. We beat them at their place and we tied them here at our place. That’s how the rankings should go.… You’ve got to credit the Big West. Both Santa Barbara and Irvine got first-round byes. That would have been nice for us, but hey, we got a home game. We get to play. That’s what I’m excited about.
Your team has done so much in just two years on the Division I scene. Where would winning a NCAA Tournament game rank on that list of accomplishments?
It would top it. We’ve knocked off the top team in the conference in UC Santa Barbara, beating them twice in the past couple years.… We’ve surpassed quite a few top programs on the West Coast. But winning a NCAA Tournament game would be huge for us. Not just for the men’s soccer program, but for all the athletics programs at UC Davis.
The fan support for your team has been great this season, especially in big games. What would you like to see from your fans on Saturday?
I would love to see the Aggie Pack and all of our fans show up out in the parking lot between 10:30 and 11 a.m. There’s a group of former players that are organizing a social prior to the game. It’d be awesome to have the Aggie Pack lined up when we walk in and to let Denver know they’re here at UC Davis when they walk in. That would be outstanding.
ADAM LOBERSTEIN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.