Teams: No. 17 UC Davis vs. Denver
Records: Aggies, 12-4-4; Pioneers, 10-6-6
Where: Aggie Soccer Stadium
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Who to watch: After contemplating whether or not to return to the UC Davis men’s soccer team to use his fourth year of eligibility, senior co-captain Dylan Curtis decided to suit up for the Aggies for one more year.
His decision to come back paid off, as Curtis was named the Big West Conference’s Midfielder of the Year on Tuesday for a UC Davis team that has been nationally ranked all season.
Did you know? Saturday’s match marks men’s soccer’s second NCAA Tournament appearance in as many chances, making it the university’s first team to qualify for multiple Division I tournaments.
Preview: When the Aggies fell to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, they were happy to have simply qualified for postseason play.
That mentality has changed, as UC Davis welcomes Denver to the friendly confines of Aggie Soccer Stadium gunning for a win.
“[A playoff win] would mean a lot,” Curtis said. “All we want to do is be better than last year. Step one is winning our first game. Past that, it’s going on a six-game spree to win the whole thing.”
Denver makes the trek to Davis with its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, which earned the Pioneers an automatic berth in the national tournament.
They are led offensively by senior forward Kyle Christensen, whose six goals and three assists earned him MPSF Player of the Year honors. Freshman forward Sam Garza’s four goals and four assists got him the MPSF Newcomer of the Year award.
The Aggies know a thing about all-conference accolades, too.
Senior forward Quincy Amarikwa led the Big West with 15 goals – five of which came in game-winning fashion – en route to being named the Big West Offensive Player of the Year.
UC Davis was also tough defensively this season.
Senior defender Jordan Vanderpoorten earned second-team all-conference honors in front of sophomore goalkeeper Ryan McCowan, who led the conference with a mere 0.85 goals against average.
Senior Sule Anibaba and junior Paul Marcoux round out the group of five Aggies to garner all-conference recognition.
– Max Rosenblum