UC Davis has set their sights high for the 2010 season.
“We’re ultimately focused on doing well in the Big West Conference Tournament,” said coach Dwayne Shaffer. “Then making it to the NCAA tourney.”
The Aggies started their season on the worst possible note, however, when an own goal put them down 1-0 early on the road against Cal State Bakersfield.
UC Davis proceeded to concede two more goals before sophomore Lance Patterson put UC Davis on the scoreboard in the 85th minute.
Despite some late opportunities, the Aggies fell by the score of 3-1.
UC Davis returned home poised to turn things around, and they did just that against San Jose State.
The Aggies were unable to score in regulation, but some key saves by sophomore goalkeeper Tommy Siragusa kept the score level at zero and the game went to overtime.
It didn’t take long for UC Davis to break through in the extra period. John Joslin passed the ball forward to Patterson, who put the ball in the net in the 92nd minute to give the Aggies a thrilling 1-0 victory.
It did not take nearly that long for UC Davis to notch their first goal in their next match, on the road at Sacramento State.
The Aggies opened the game with a long up-field pass from senior midfielder Jason Santos. Patterson pushed the ball past the Hornets’ goalkeeper and UC Davis took a 1-0 lead in the first minute of action.
The goal also made Patterson the first Aggies to score in three straight games since Quincy Amarikwa in 2008.
Siragusa made a nice penalty save to keep UC Davis in the lead, but the Hornets dominated the possession for much of the second half, peppering the Aggie goal with shots.
Sacramento State broke the UC Davis defense in the 50th minute when a cross from Hornet Fernando Cabadas found its way into the net.
Sacramento State scored again just three minutes later and went on to defeat the Aggies 2-1.
UC Davis felt it was a game that could have gone either way.
“We started fast,” said Shaffer. “It was the quickest goal I’ve ever seen. We were focused and we had good energy, but they’re a very good team and very possession oriented. We played well enough to win, but sometimes it just isn’t your day.”
From that point the Aggies returned home to face St. Mary’s, and this time the roles were reversed, with UC Davis falling down by a goal early. Gael Tom Mohoric put the ball in the UC Davis net in the fifth minute giving St. Mary’s the early advantage.
UC Davis pressed forward, but despite posting seven shots in the first half the Aggies entered halftime trailing 1-0.
UC Davis continued to attack in the second period and the Aggies got what they were looking for in the 58th minute.
Patterson took the ball in space down the right side of the field, and played a perfect cross to fellow sophomore Michael Garrick who scored from three yards out.
The Aggies weren’t done yet.
UC Davis struck again in the 72nd minute when a corner kick from sophomore Jacob Barron bounced off several bodies in the penalty area before Joslin put it in the net.
The Aggies held the Gaels scoreless the rest of the way and won the game 2-1.
It was an important victory for UC Davis.
“That was a big win for us,” Shaffer said. “We beat an excellent team who made the NCAA tournament last year. We always play well at home and I feel that we were the better team. Our guys proved they could handle the adversity of going behind early in the game.”
The Aggies followed that game with two on the road in Oregon.
The first match pitted UC Davis against Oregon State.
Despite having the advantage in shots, UC Davis found themselves down 2-0 in the 55th minute.
The Aggies began to make a comeback when Lance Patterson scored in the 58th minute, but Oregon State responded, scoring their third just three minutes later.
Nick Grigoriev brought the Aggies within a goal when he scored in the 83rd minute, but despite having 18 shots, UC Davis lost 3-2.
The Aggies felt the game could easily have been theirs.
“I honestly thought we were the better team,” Shaffer said. “We led in shots and we had incredible chances in the final four minutes, but that’s how soccer goes.”
UC Davis finished their stint in Oregon against Seattle.
The Redhawks jumped out to an early lead on a goal in the 21st minute.
Although the Aggies once again outshot their opponent, they were unable to score, and Seattle got a 1-0 victory.
“Seattle did what they needed to do to win,” Shaffer said. “When the game didn’t go our way early you could see their confidence growing and we started to lose some of our steam.”
Despite having a record on 2-4, UC Davis feels that they are as good as any squad they’ve played.
“I don’t feel that any team we’ve faced has been better than us,” Shaffer said.
Now the Aggies must prepare for another road trip to the Pacific Northwest, this time in Washington where they will face Portland and Washington in their final two games before Big West play.
UC Davis knows that their success in these games begins with their back line.
“If we play well on defense, it will give us an opportunity to win,” said senior defender Chris Beville.
His coach agrees.
“We need to get better defensively,” Shaffer said. “We want to break our opponents’ confidence and shut them out.”
The Aggies also believe that if they stay the course things will work out.
“If we just focus and stay on the same page we’ll be fine,” Patterson said.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.