The Aggies might have felt déjà vu this weekend.
For the second time this season UC Davis played Big West Conference foes Long Beach State and UC Irvine in the same weekend. And for the second time this season, it played both close. The outcomes were almost identical as the Aggies defeated the 49ers in a close contest and fell to the Anteaters in a one-goal game.
“Both games were played really well and really close,” coach Jamey Wright said. “It was good for our team to get some experience playing in close games.”
Above all else, Wright’s goal for the weekend was for the team to gain confidence in games against division foes. This is because there is a good chance the Aggies will match up against either the 49ers or Anteaters in the Big West Conference Tournament.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re confident we can beat anyone in conference,” Wright said. “With all the teams being close in playing ability, that confidence can go a long way.”
UC Davis split the two matches, moving to 15-14 overall and 1-2 in Big West play. Freshmen Jessica Dunn led all Aggie scorers with four goals over the weekend. Senior Casey Hines continued her strong play, racking up two double-digit save games to bring her season total to 205 saves.
Saturday – No. 18 UC Davis 8, Long Beach State 6 (OT)
Looking at the box score, this game seemed to be as close as can be – except for overtime.
It took an extra period for the UC Davis to top Long Beach State for its first Big West win of the season.
“We played better this time than when we saw Long Beach [State] earlier in the season,” Wright said. “We swam a little better than them and that was our key to victory.”
Dunn led UC Davis with three goals on the day, good for her fifth hat trick on the season. Junior Rachelle Smith added two scores of her own.
“It was great to see the team persevere through overtime,” Wright said. “Close games like this are a good learning experience – especially for a young team like this one.”
Sunday – No. 13 UC Irvine 7, UC Davis 6
The last time the Aggies played the Anteaters at their pool, the game ended in a close one-goal game. This match might have been a mirror image of the last one.
UC Davis fell to UC Irvine for the second time this season in another one-goal affair.
“This was another really close game,” Wright said. “It could have gone either way.”
Sophomore Ariel Feeney and senior Dana Nelson each added a goal late in the second quarter to cut the Anteater lead to one entering the break.
After a scoreless third period, UC Irvine scored two quick fourth-quarter goals to gain a three-score lead. Sophomore Kaylee Miller hit her second goal of the game to cut the deficit to one but the Aggies were unable to tie it up.
Wright noted after the game that there is no clear favorite in the Big West as all the teams are equally matched. He feels that any of the six teams can win the tournament.
“I suspect every game will be close come tournament time,” Wright said. “We could win all our games and win it all, or we could lose three straight and finish in last – that’s how close this conference is.”
UC Davis finishes up the regular season next weekend when it hosts Cal State Northridge on Friday and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
JASON ALPERT can be reached at email@example.com.