The stands were packed, the team was juiced, and if the first eight minutes of water polo were an indication of how the weekend would unfold, the Aggies were golden.
An early 4-3 lead against No. 5 Pepperdine was how UC Davis had planned to start their three-day, five-game stint.
After those first eight minutes, things turned awry quickly.
The Aggies were outscored 7-2 in the final three quarters against the Waves, eventually falling 10-6.
Saturday rolled around and the wounds did not heal.
In fact, they only got deeper as UC Davis fell to Western Water Polo Association Conference foe No. 15 Air Force in overtime after entering halftime with a 6-2 lead.
“This game really hurt,” said junior captain Cory Lyle. “We could not execute down the stretch, everyone knows we should have won.”
The Aggies did finish on a high note taking two of their last three, both of which came against unranked teams.
Friday- No. 5 Pepperdine 10, No. 13 UC Davis 6
It took 20 games and almost two months of play for the Aggies home opener, but it didn’t show early in Friday afternoon’s contest.
UC Davis drew a spark early as they took a two-goal lead in the first quarter against nationally-ranked Pepperdine.
After the first eight minutes of play, the Waves took control of the game peppering the Aggies with five straight goals to spoil any chance of an upset.
Sophomore Ryan Hagens returned from injury to lead the charge with two goals, including the only Aggie goal in the second half.
“We played really well,” Hagens said. “That team is stacked and we were a couple of passes and easy goals away from winning this thing.”
Saturday- No. 15 Air Force 8, No. 13 UC Davis 7
The first game of the Rodeo in Santa Clara was the only WWPA match of the weekend and arguably the most important for UC Davis.
The Aggies seemed fresh in the first half as they dominated the Falcons taking a 6-2 lead into the break.
For the second game in a row, UC Davis could not produce when it needed to the most. The Aggies were held scoreless in the fourth period and in each overtime period.
Conference foe Air Force took advantage of the Aggies’ inability to score, tying the game at 7-7 and eventually finishing the big comeback with a goal for the win.
“When you don’t score for the last 14 minutes of play, how do you expect to win?” said Matt Richardson. “We dominated this game until the fourth quarter. We just need to work on finishing games.”
Saturday- No. 13 UC Davis 9, Fresno Pacific 5
Sophomore Luke Collins led the Aggies to their first win of the weekend with two goals in a 9-5 victory over Fresno Pacific.
Calling the Sunbirds the dirtiest team they have ever played against, the Aggies figured out a way to get out with a victory despite incurring some minor scrapes and bruises.
Sunday- No. 10 Concordia 8, No. 13 UC Davis 4
UC Davis once again started off hot, opening with a 1-0 lead against a talented Concordia squad.
The Eagles powered back as they scored three goals in both the second and third quarters. That was all they needed to dispatch the Aggies.
Lyle, who has been the leading scorer for most of the season, got himself out of a shooting slump with a hat-trick that included two bar-ins and a nasty lob.
“We did not play our kind of water polo this weekend,” Lyle said. “Once we start doing that we can beat anybody.”
Sunday- No. 13 UC Davis 8, Brown 4
UC Davis finished the weekend on a high note as they dominated Brown for the final two quarters, coming out with the victory.
Freshmen Kevin Driscoll and Colin Hicks led UC Davis with two goals apiece giving the Aggies their 12th victory of the season.
The Aggies return home to host 13-time national champion California on Nov. 1.
SAMMY BRASCH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.