Being the Aggies are an undersized, inexperienced team, the water polo world had been questioning their ability to close out games against tough opponents.
But for the second straight week, UC Davis upset the 10th-ranked team in the country. This weekend it was conference-rival Santa Clara, in front of their home crowd at Sullivan Aquatic Center.
“It was one of the best feelings I have had in sports,” captain Cory Lyle said. “Their crowd was huge and after we won they were completely silenced. It was golden.”
In the three games before their matchup with Santa Clara, the Aggies beat down on a montage of Western Water Polo Association foes, moving to an impressive 8-2 against league opponents.
Saturday – No. 15 UC Davis 12, Cal Lutheran 3
Sophomore Russell Hampton scored a career-high four goals to lead the way past CLU.
The Aggies took a 6-2 lead going into the break with the help of Hampton’s hat trick in the first half.
Then freshman Jared Clapham completed a hat trick of his own with two goals in the third period, pushing the UC Davis lead to 8-2.
Another young star emerged, as freshman Kevin Driscoll added two scores for the Aggies as they closed out the Kingsmen.
Saturday – No. 15 UC Davis 8, Redlands 6
Senior Jim Breen paced UC Davis with a hat trick performance to push his team past the Bulldogs for the second time in three weeks.
UC Davis stormed out to a 4-0 lead and went in to the halftime break dominating the game at 5-1.
The Aggies held off Redlands for the rest of the contest and came out with their second win of the day.
“This is what’s great about our team,” said Breen. “You never know who is going to be the star of that game. We have a stockpile of weapons.”
Sunday- No. 15 UC Davis 8, Whitter 3
The score was knotted at 2-2 after the first and the Aggies were looking for some scoring power.
For the second game in a row they found it in their most experienced player: Breen. His two goals boosted a run of six unanswered goals in the second and third period, effectively closing out the Poets.
Sunday- No. 15 UC Davis 8, No. 10 Santa Clara 7
After being spanked 9-4 only a week earlier by Santa Clara, the Aggies came out with something to prove at the Bronco Invite’s main event.
UC Davis opened fiercely with a crowd stifling 3-1 lead at the first intermission, but led only 4-3 at the half.
The Aggies’ lead would not last long as the Broncos came roaring back with three straight goals to go up 7-5 early in the fourth.
Lyle shattered their run and started an attack for his own team with his second goal of the game, a monstrous backhand strike with 5:29 left in the fourth.
Then fellow junior Matt Richardson threw one in the back of the net to tie the contest at 7-7 with just over four minutes remaining.
The junior trio of fourth quarter excellence was capped off when Carlos Martinez drew a massive ejection with just over three minutes remaining.
Freshman Colin Hicks finished the job, grabbing the game-winner with a 6-5 goal at the end of the 20-second exclusion.
“This felt good. Really good,” Martinez said. “After getting dominated by them only a week ago and to come back and win in front of their home crowd, you couldn’t ask for a better way to end the weekend.”
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.