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Davis, California

Friday, July 19, 2024

Column: Bring on Michigan

Dwayne Shaffer couldn’t help himself.

In the final minutes of Saturday’s contest at Aggie Soccer Stadium, the UC Davis men’s soccer coach walked toward the student section, hopped on top of the closest chair he could find, grabbed a towel and waived it repeatedly to pump up an already rowdy crowd.

“The one thing with coaches in every sport is we all have this sort of blank demeanor,Shaffer said.I’m tired of being like that on the sideline.

Who could blame him?

His Aggies had just unleashed an offensive barrage on the visiting Denver Pioneers en route to a 4-0 win in the first round of the NCAA Division I Tournament.

UC Davis will face the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich. in the tournament’s second round on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

“They’re just a lot more physical than we are, Denver coach Bobby Muss said.They’re bigger, stronger, more athletic and they imposed that game on us.

Gone is last year’s disappointment of falling to California in double-overtime in the tournament’s first round.

Gone is the fact UC Davis had won just one of its past seven games.

Gone is the Aggiesthree-game scoreless drought (in a really, really big way).

UC Davisfirst team to qualify for multiple Division I tournaments had chalked up the win in the first home playoff game in school history.

“After the success we had last season,Shaffer said,I could almost feel a little bit of tightness from the guys coming into this year. It kind of showed late in the season. We weren’t playing to our best.

“Making it to the NCAA Tournament, having a home gameI just kind of felt like all the pressure fell off of their shoulders. I’m just extremely happy for my team. They’ll go down in history at UC Davis.

The men’s soccer team looks to make history yet again tomorrow at Michigan.

The Wolverines are a very good team. They’ve beaten a lot of good teams. They play a competitive conference schedule.

UC Davis can beat them.

The Aggies faced one other Big 10 Conference team this season in Michigan State. They handled Spartans with ease, 4-2. Michigan State is the No. 4 seed in the tournament, while Michigan is No. 11.

“When we’re clicking like we were today, we’re really, really hard to play against,Shaffer said.

Denver didn’t really have a chance with the way the Aggies were clicking on Saturday. If they can bring that same offensive intensity to Michigan, the Wolverines could suffer a similar fate.

“That’s our style of soccer,said junior forward Chris Leer, who scored one of his two goals Saturday by way of a bicycle kick.Our attack has been tremendous. In the past few games, it seemed like it was Quincy [Amarikwa] up top and then everybody would be dropping behind and seeing what he could do.

“In this game, we had four guys supporting him in the back. It makes it so much easier on our attack. It changed the whole momentum of the game, and the results show it.

Given what’ll be on the line in Ann Arbor, odds are the Aggies will bring that same offensive intensity with them to U-M Soccer Complex.

“I could tell the players thought it was different,Shaffer said of the playoff setting.They had way more bounce in their step. They were so much more lively this morning. I could definitely see it. I knew it was going to be hard for Denver to beat us once I saw their faces. You could see it in their eyes that they were ready to go.

They’ll be ready to go on Tuesday, too.


ADAM LOBERSTEIN lacks sufficient funding to make the trip to Ann Arbor. He’s accepting donations at sports@theaggie.org.


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