The first Big West Conference Tournament didn’t turn out like the Aggies would have hoped.
Due to a coin flip placement, No. 9 UC Davis had to matchup with No. 10 UC Irvine in the semifinal game – a team that gave the Aggies their only Big West loss during the regular season.
The Anteaters repeated their previous performance, beating the Aggies 10-8 in Saturday’s semifinal game. The loss set up a battle for third place for UC Davis with the tournament’s top seed, No. 13 Cal State Northridge.
UC Davis was able to forget about its loss to Irvine in time to take care of business against the Matadors, 10-6.
Saturday – UC Irvine 10, UC Davis 8
Both Irvine and UC Davis knew it was going to be a battle heading into Saturday’s semifinal contest.
These two teams met less than a month ago, with the Anteaters carving out a 6-5 win against the Aggies. UC Davis hit the water this time out trying to prove that was a fluke.
“We knew we had to beat them to win this championship,” said coach Jamey Wright. “It just happened to be on Saturday because of these convoluted coin flip rankings. They were easily the best team and in my opinion we were definitely the second best. This game should have been for the title.“
The Aggies struck first blood with one of junior Dana Nelson’s two goals on the day. Irvine came back with a flurry of scores, though, as it netted three straight goals to go up 3-1.
UC Davis fought back to go up 4-3 entering the halftime break. Sophomore Dakotah Mohr scored two goals in the span of 16 seconds to put the Aggies ahead 6-3 in the beginning of the third.
The Anteaters cut their deficit to one before freshman Kaylee Miller scored her second goal of the day, bumping the Aggie lead to 8-6.
But that was the last offense UC Davis would produce, as the Anteaters scored four straight to close out the Aggies on their way to the first Big West title.
“We played a really good three-and-a-half quarters,” Wright said. “We just didn’t get any ejections in the fourth and could not score otherwise. I’m still really proud of how we played against a really talented senior-dominated team.“
Sunday – UC Davis 10, Cal State Northridge 6
Saturday’s upsetting loss didn’t affect UC Davis‘ play. The Aggies dominated the game from start to finish, never trailing and eventually giving the top-seeded Matadors their second loss of the tournament.
“It’s really hard to play these games because everybody wants to be in the championship,“ Wright said. “I am really proud of how our girls really came together and dominated this game.“
After UC Davis went out to a 3-0 start, Northridge fought back to tie the game at 4-4 with only a couple minutes remaining in the second period.
The Aggies responded quickly, as sophomore Rachelle Smith’s bar-in strike was immediately followed by junior Ashley Chandler’s second goal of the game, giving UC Davis a 6-4 lead heading into the break.
The Matadors once again cut it to one in the third quarter. Miller scored both of her goals in the span of 40 seconds in the beginning of the fourth quarter to help the Aggies pull away.
All 18 Aggies played in Sunday’s game, including both goalies. Senior Diana Pivacek ended her career with six saves in the last 16 minutes.
“Finishing the season with all our players playing was really fun to watch,” Wright said.
For the ninth straight game, senior Lindsay Kiyama led UC Davis in scoring. She capped her All-American career with an impressive hat trick performance in the tournament’s third-place game.
Kiyama led the Aggies with 53 goals on the season, ending the year with 15 goals in her final six games.
“Kiyama has really played so great this season,” Wright said. “She was a dominant force in the Northridge game, and played really well in the Irvine game.“
Although the Aggies didn’t get to the Big West title game, they did exceed expectations this season.
“With the lack of experience from returning players and obviously the incoming freshman,” Wright said, “to get to be the co-conference regular season champ and the highest ranked national team in the Big West – it’s just a phenomenal accomplishment for this team.“
UC Davis finishes the season at 23-10 and 5-2 in conference play.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at email@example.com.