UC Davis has been attending the Triton Invitational for the past six seasons and had yet to reach the championship game.
A new group of players brought a new story this Sunday.
The young and talented Aggies tallied three straight victories to make their way to the championship game against San Diego State Sunday night.
UC Davis fell short of the championship, but it did not fall short of expectations.
“This team just keeps on surprising me,” coach Jamey Wright said. “The way the team has played this season – I could not ask for a better start.“
Friday – No. 9 UC Davis 19, Redlands 4
UC Davis entered Saturday’s pool play as the top seed, and lived up to the billing against a struggling Redlands program.
The Aggies opened a 10-3 lead at halftime, and then scored seven consecutive goals to push the lead to 17-3. Seven different Aggies scored two goals apiece to lift UC Davis to the win.
Friday – No. 9 UC Davis 10, No. 19 UC San Diego 9
The Aggies are a youthful team with very few players with extended game-time experience. But when it came down to crunch time in Saturday’s nail biter, UC Davis looked to its most seasoned player.
Senior Lindsay Kiyama, the only returning starter from last season, found the back of the net on a counter attack with seven seconds remaining in the second overtime to put the Aggies up for good against the host Tritons.
“We are going to look for her in tough situations,” Wright said. “She has played in all the big games for us in the past.“
The Aggies trailed 8-5 at the end of three, but fought their way back in the fourth to force overtime.
Sophomore Dakotah Mohr, who led the team in goals this weekend with six in four games, had two goals in the fourth period, including a strike with 33 seconds remaining that led to overtime.
Neither team scored in the first overtime, but then senior Sophia Patronas scored with 1:16 left in the second overtime period.
Just when it looked like the Aggies would pull away, the Tritons tied the game back up on the next possession. The host’s hearts were broken when Kiyama struck with seven seconds remaining putting the Aggies in the winning bracket for Sunday play.
“We gave them a lot of opportunities,“ Wright said, “but we finished the fourth and overtime with the confidence we needed to win.“
Sunday – No. 9 UC Davis 9, No. 11 Loyola Marymount 7
The Aggies faced a past conference foe in LMU in Sunday’s opener, and showed again that they would be the team to beat in their old conference.
The game was locked at three at half. The Aggies then exploded in the third quarter to give them a 7-4 lead after three.
“It was simple: we converted on our 6-on-5s and they couldn’t,” Wright said. “Whether it was us playing good defense or them playing bad offense, it won us the game.“
Junior Ashley Chandler led the team with two goals, both coming in the Aggies‘ big third quarter. Like Mohr, Chandler also netted six goals on the weekend.
“I watched LMU play against Long Beach and I did not think we were going to win. They’re a really good team,” Wright said. “Ashley led us against LMU. Her length and speed is really amazing.“
Sunday – No. 5 San Diego State 12, No. 9 UC Davis 8
UC Davis came into Sunday’s championship game looking to go home as the tournament champs for the first time in program history.
The Aztecs were looking to avenge the Aggies 9-8 victory last year in the NCAA Championships that put the Aggies into the Final Four.
UC Davis could not repeat last May’s performance, as a very talented San Diego State team took the Triton Invitational, 12-8.
San Diego State’s Anna Gonzales scored three of her four goals in the first quarter to give the Tritons a 4-1 lead through eight minutes of play.
The Aggies briefly cut the lead to one, but the Aztecs took a two-goal lead in the second, bringing the Aggies as close as they would come to the tournament victory.
To continue the season of balanced scoring, Mohr and freshman Carey Faber led the Aggies with two goals apiece in Sunday’s nightcap.
“No one has scored three goals for us yet this season,” Wright said. “We are so balanced, and that is not only hard to defend, but it’s a team that is great to be a part of.“
The Aggies have faced four top-10 teams already in this young season, and move to 5-3 after last weekend’s play.
UC Davis returns to action this weekend at Cal State Bakersfield’s Roadrunner Open.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at email@example.com.