This season was supposed to be a transition year.
The UC Davis men’s lacrosse team had won a grand total of just four games in its two previous seasons. The team began the year with a brand new head coach. The Aggies were ranked last in their conference heading into preseason play.
Something seemed different, though, as the Aggies took the field for their very first game.
“We started learning how to win again,” said coach Adam Kenney.
Despite everything stacked against the Aggies, it was obvious the team had improved after a 7-6 victory on opening night over UC Santa Cruz.
“We knew this was going to be a learning year,” said senior midfielder Zach Bluth, who served as the club’s president this year. “We made it important that everyone needed to take more work upon themselves.”
The game against the Banana Slugs was just the beginning. The Aggies went on to win eight games and finish the season over .500 for the first time in two years.
“This is the best team we have put together since I’ve been in college,” Bluth said.
The Aggies’ claimed victories against schools like UCLA, Sonoma State, Stanford and Chico State, all which ranked higher than UC Davis.
“When it mattered, we found a way to get it done,” said junior goalie David Ginsberg. “I think the team had a better than expected season.”
When Sonoma State, a team that has had recent success against UC Davis, traveled to play the Aggies, the UC Davis squad knew they had a tough game ahead.
“Sonoma State has always been a power,” Kenney said. “They were pretty talented.”
Their talent wasn’t able to keep up with Aggies’ as UC Davis defeated Sonoma State, 8-6.
The victory didn’t stay UC Davis’ most impressive win for long. Two games later they hosted Stanford, a team they hadn’t beaten in three years.
In the match, the Aggies blew an early lead, but eventually came back in the fourth quarter to defeat the Cardinal, 7-5.
Two impressive victories may have seemed like enough, but the Aggies saved their most impressive performance for the last regular season game.
With top rival Chico State coming into Davis, the Aggies wanted to make sure the last home game of the season ended in their favor.
The Wildcats came in needing only a victory to clinch a playoff spot. UC Davis made sure it was Chico State’s last game, as the Aggies won 11-8 to secure to No. 3 seed in the Western Collegiate Lacrosse League.
“They weren’t ready for us,” Kenney said.
The Aggies’ seniors made sure to leave with a bang. Jules Houts had four goals and an assist, Brian Walsh notched a goal, and Bluth added three more of his own along with an assist.
“It was a good way to see the seniors go out,” Bluth said.
Also in the season finale, Ginsburg had 17 saves, which played a large role in his first-team all league selection WCLL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
“He worked extremely hard,” Kenney said. “We’re lucky to have him back next year.”
Ginsburg anchored an Aggie defense while averaging 13.5 saves and allowing only 6.8 goals per game.
“I felt I had a great season,” Ginsburg said. “Our defense was a stronger part of the team.”
With the No. 3 seed, the Aggies entered the final four of the conference. UC Davis fell 10-8 to California but came a lot closer than the 10-3 loss they faced in the regular season.
Other than making the final four and Ginsburg’s award, the Aggies received a few other honors.
Houts as well as juniors Greg Arch and James Sherrer each made third-team all league. Bluth also received second team honors while scoring 28 points.
The Aggies came a long way from the beginning of the season. They attribute a lot of that success to good coaching and teamwork.
“The coach did a great job [this year],” Bluth said. “Everyone did a fantastic job.”
UC Davis is fresh off a great season in which it finished 3-3 in conference and 6-2 at home. As a result, the future looks bright for the Aggies.
Ginsburg returns as well as many of the team’s top defenders. A strong freshman class is also coming in.
Everyone should prepare for another fun-filled, surprising and exciting season next year, in which it is certain the Aggies will not pay attention to any preseason rankings.
ZANDER WOLD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.