Senior forward Quincy Amarikwa predicted it and Denver head coach Bobby Muss affirmed it.
Before UC Davis‘ opening round game of the NCAA Tournament against Denver, Amarikwa said he expected his team to dominate the Pioneers offensively, and to impose its will on them.
The Aggies did that and then some, knocking off Denver in a commanding 4-0 fashion before an overflow crowd of 1,344 at Aggie Soccer Stadium.
“They are bigger, stronger and more athletic,” Muss said. “They imposed that game on us.”
With the win, UC Davis advances to the tournament’s second round, where it will face Michigan on Tuesday. The game will begin at 11 a.m. at U-M Soccer Complex in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Awesome. I’m happy,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said. “I thought my team played outstanding from the beginning of the game all the way through the end.
“I felt like our starters set the tone and several of our reserves came in and made us better and put a lot of pressure on Denver throughout the game.“
Freshman defender and Aurora, Colo. native Lance Patterson started off the scoring brigade.
Twenty-four minutes into the match, senior midfielder Dan Campbell sent a free kick onto goal. Denver keeper Joe Willis made the initial save, but Patterson was there to tap in the rebound for his first goal of the season.
“I knew Dan was going to get it on frame,” Patterson said, “so I just sprinted to the goal and there it was. The goal set the tone for the game. Before the game, our mindset was that we had to get that first goal. Once we got it, it kept the ball rolling and just gave us momentum and it went from there.“
The Aggies took the 1-0 lead into halftime lead, but kicked things into a higher gear with three goals in the game’s second session.
Senior midfielder Sule Anibaba had the first of the second half scores when he booted in a rebound off of a Campbell throw in.
Junior Chris Leer then added two goals of his own, the second of which came by way of a bicycle kick.
“That was icing on the cake,” Leer said. “It just came to my mind. I took the first touch and thought, ‘Oh my, that was a bad touch.‘ It wasn’t as if I could settle it down and try and place it. I tried to bike it and fortunately it went into the goal.“
Leer added his second goal when he beat the goalie one-on-one off of a touch by freshman forward Rene Cuellar.
“It always feels good to score,” Leer said. “It feels even better to score a goal at home, and to make a statement like we did today by scoring four goals.“
Overall, the Aggies‘ offense was present where it had been lacking as of late. UC Davis had played 354 minutes since scoring its last goal against UC Irvine on Oct. 25.
“That’s our style of soccer,” Leer said. “We just go at teams. It seemed like the past games we were just sitting back. This whole week we were preparing to just go at them. The results showed on the field.“
The victory was the first-ever NCAA Tournament win in UC Davis men’s soccer history. The Aggies lost to California in the first round last season.
“Losing last year at Berkeley wasn’t a very good feeling,” Anibaba said. “It wasn’t a good feeling so I didn’t want it to happen again. It was going to be my last game and the seniors‘ last game at home, so we were just going to come out and work hard and do whatever it takes.“
“Coach always tells us to leave it on the field,” senior defender Jake Mogelson said. “That’s all we wanted to do, especially us seniors. We didn’t want to have any regrets in our last game at home.“
The Aggies shouldn’t have any regrets as Saturday’s game was their largest margin of victory this season.
In the game’s final minutes, Shaffer stood up on a chair beside the bench and waved a towel around his head in the direction of the Aggie Pack.
“One thing with coaches in every sport is that we always have this blank demeanor and I am kind of tired of being like that on the sideline,” Shaffer said. “It’s a college environment and a great place to be. I get into it just as much as the fans do. I just wanted to thank the Aggie Pack and all the fans that come to our games. It was my way of saying thank you and that I hope to see you again.“
MAX ROSENBLUM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.