The term “must-win” game has been thrown around so much in sports it’s starting to taste like stale fish. I’m sure the San Francisco Giants had a “must-win” in April against the San Diego Padres. I’m sure every game the Giants have played against the Colorado Rockies is considered a “must-win.”
The only time the term “must-win” can be used in sports is if a team loses, then it’s out of postseason contention. That simple.
The reason the term is thrown around so often is because it is that simple. It’s a helluva lot easier to say “must-win” than “an-important-game-the-team-should-win-because-otherwise-they’ll-have-a-hard-time-getting-into-the-playoffs-without-it.” A better phrase for “must-win” is “key-game”. A “key-game” is one in which it really helps if the team wins, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t.
So without further rambling, here are the “key-games” for every UC Davis team this fall.
Football – Saturday Nov. 11 at Cal Poly
This one is a no-brainer. Not only are the Mustangs the Dodgers to our Giants, this game could have implications on who takes the Great West Conference title. Cal Poly will come out gunning for the Golden Horseshoe after losing it last year and the Aggies need to be ready. If UC Davis wants to retain the Golden Horseshoe and repeat as Great West champions, we will need to come out gunning here.
Men’s Soccer – Oct. 2 vs. UC Santa Barabara
If there’s one thing the FIFA World Cup taught us this year, it’s that momentum can do wonders for a soccer team. Therefore, the Aggies need to come out of the gates strong to open up Big West Conference play. What better team to open up with that the reigning Big West Champion Gauchos?
Women’s Soccer – Oct. 3 at UC Irvine
UC Irvine, the preseason favorite in the Big West, is going to be a challenge to whichever team it faces. If the Aggies can top the Anteaters, they’ll be in a good position to win the conference and possibly earn a berth in the NCAA championships.
Women’s Volleyball – Nov. 6 vs. Long Beach State
The 49ers have lost just nine Big West matches over the past three years. The reigning conference champs and preseason favorite to repeat are going to be a handful for anyone this year, especially the Aggies. A win here will put UC Davis in great shape to possibly win the conference and qualify for its first-ever NCAA Division I postseason appearance.
Men’s Water Polo – Nov. 19 to 21, Western Water Polo Association Championships, Santa Clara, Calif.
The WWPA is arguably the toughest water polo conference in the nation. So if the Aggies have hope to qualify for the NCAA Championships, they’ll have to put on a good showing at the conference tournament. They don’t necessarily need to take the title. They just need to impress the selection committee enough to give them an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
Field Hockey – Oct. 16 vs. Pacific
The young UC Davis field hockey program is still looking for its first NorPac Conference win. Its best shot might be against Pacific late in the season. The Aggies lost to the Tigers 1-0 and 2-1 last season. UC Davis has improved over the past year and it will be looking to top rival Pacific for the league win.
Cross Country – Oct. 16, Bronco Invitational, Santa Clara, Calif.
The obvious choice would be to pick the Big West Championships as the key-game for the Aggies this year but getting to the conference championships with some confidence can be just as important. The Aggies need to perform well and tighten any loose bolts at the Bronco Invitational if they want to compete for their first ever Big West cross country team title.
Men’s Golf – Nov. 1 to 3, Stockton Sports Commission Pacific Invitational, Stockton, Calif.
The Pacific Invitational is UC Davis’ last tournament until February. Therefore, the Aggies’ will need to perform well at the event to give them some confidence before the long layoff.
Women’s Golf – Oct. 4 to 6, Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, Tacoma, Wash.
The reigning Big West champions also have a long layover. As a result, they’ll need a confidence booster as they head into the break.
If you think of any other pivotal games, e-mail JASON ALPERT at firstname.lastname@example.org.