According to coach Jamey Wright, the Aggies played a perfect game – after the first period of play.
“We played as bad as we possibly could in the first quarter,” Wright said. “We played brilliantly after that.”
No. 16 Pacific jumped out to a 5-0 lead, including a goal seconds after the opening whistle. The 18th ranked Aggies (14-13, 0-1) didn’t tally a goal until 5:16 left in the second quarter.
“We came out flat-footed and tentative,” Wright said. “Pacific came out strong and hit the ground running.”
Junior Ariel Feeney completed her hat trick in the second quarter, scoring the Aggies’ first three goals. Entering the break, the Aggies were down 5-3.
UC Davis closed the gap to one when senior Dana Nelsen scored three minutes into the third period. The Tigers then scored two unanswered to grab a three-goal lead.
Freshman Jessica Dunn added a goal in the fourth to make it a two-goal game, but the Aggies were unable to secure a lead. Pacific went on to take the Big West Conference showdown, 7-5.
UC Davis had opportunities to tie the game, but two shots careened off the goal bar to prevent an Aggie comeback.
Senior goalie Casey Hines continued her strong play this season, racking up nine saves.
Despite a conference-opening loss, Wright said there were a lot of positives from the game.
“The comeback was amazing,” Wright said. “Our defense played great from the second quarter on. [We] didn’t quit and kept on playing despite the deficit. If we played like we did at the end for the entire game, we would’ve won.”
Wright was also proud of the play of Feeney and sophomore Carey Faber. “Both Ariel [Feeney] and Carey helped us back into the game,” he added. “They both did very well.”
Wright also said a key to the Aggies getting back into the game was a new type of play he and the coaching staff developed for 6-on-5 situations.
“We would start to shift people in the pool when we had a player advantage,” Wright added. “Eventually one of the Pacific players would be caught out of position and we would capitalize.”
UC Davis continues its Big West schedule on the road when it plays Long Beach State on April 10 and UC Irvine one day later.
JASON ALPERT can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.