UC Davis trailed by only one goal to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara with just six minutes to play in the opening contest of the UC Irvine Invitational.
A win would pit them against defending national champion, No. 3 Southern California, while a loss would put them in the loser’s bracket and give them a ninth-place finish at best.
The Aggies eventually fell 7-5 to the Gauchos, but their hopes remained high for the rest of the tournament because they had played such a gut-busting game against a highly ranked team.
UC Davis carried the momentum from its previous contest into the next game by defeating No. 17 Bucknell 8-5 later that evening.
As it turned out for the Aggies, the tournament was a tale of two days.
After being dealt a crushing 10-7 loss to a struggling Navy team, the Aggies capped off a tough Sunday of play by getting dealt an 11-4 loss to conference rival No. 11 UC San Diego.
“It’s hard to take anything good away from this weekend after the way we finished,” said captain Brendan Sigourney. “But it’s a good thing we have a week off to figure out what we did wrong, and fix it.”
Saturday- No. 6 Santa Barbara 7, No. 12 UC Davis 5
Despite two goals by senior Jim Breen, the Aggies were unable to come back from a 6-3 halftime deficit.
Freshman Colin Hicks put in a man-up opportunity goal and Jim Breen threw in his second strike of the match to cut it to 6-5 early in the fourth period of play.
That was as close as the Aggies would get, as the Gaucho defense wrangled in the win.
Sophomore goalie Kevin Peat had seven saves in the second half including a huge five-meter penalty block that kept the Aggies within striking distance late in the game.
“I think we played really well,” Breen said. “That Santa Barbara team is good and if we could have put some shots away down the stretch that game was ours.”
Saturday- No. 12 UC Davis 8, No. 17 Bucknell 5
Another two-goal performance by Breen coupled with two two-goal games from Hicks and junior Carlos Martinez was enough to gain the victory over the Bison on Saturday night.
The Aggies never trailed in the contest, and junior Matt Richardson’s goal in the second quarter broke a tie, putting UC Davis up for good.
Solid defense and a slew of second half-scoring gave the Aggies their first and only win of the weekend.
Sunday- No. 17 Navy 10, No. 12 UC Davis 7
Coming off two solid performances on Saturday, the Aggies were looking to continue their tough playing ways en route to taking the consolation bracket.
UC Davis’ wishes did not become reality on Sunday.
The Aggies’ hopes were crushed early on in the game against the Midshipmen, as the team fell behind 5-1 to Navy.
Despite three goals from sophomore Russell Hampton and yet another two-goal game for Breen, the closest the Aggies would come was within two goals late in the fourth.
“This was a tough loss for us because we had big expectations for Sunday,” Breen said.
Sunday- No. 11 UC San Diego 11, No. 12 UC Davis 4
Those high hopes and expectations would be diminished even more as UC Davis fell at the fork of the Tritons for the third time in a month’s period.
Another slow start characterized the game for the Aggies, who trailed 6-2 at half.
Things did not get much better in the second half as the Aggies could not compete with the Tritons, who put eight of their 10 opportunities away on man up exclusions.
“San Diego seems to have our number,” Sigourney said. “But just when they least expect we can stun them at conference. It’s going to be great to have a home game next week and get ourselves centered on what we do.”
The Aggies take a one-week hiatus from competition and host the Alumni Game on Saturday. They return to action with their home-opener against No. 7 Pepperdine on Oct. 23.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.