They were riding a five-game losing streak and had lost their first Big West Conference game to UC Santa Barbara entering this week’s slate of matches.
After dropping a match to Irvine on Wednesday, the Aggies bounced back to top Cal State Northridge Saturday for the key conference win.
Wednesday – No. 9 UC Irvine 3, UC Davis 0
The Aggies faced a difficult test in their first home Big West contest against the nationally ranked Anteaters.
UC Davis played well through the entire first half, holding Irvine scoreless.
In the second half, however, the Anteaters took control.
Over a 10-minute stretch everything fell apart for the Aggies.
It began in the 61st minute, when a save by UC Davis goalkeeper Omar Zenni found its way to the feet of Anteater Spencer Thompson, who put the ball in the net.
It was a tough break for the Aggies.
“We played really well to that point,” said coach Dwayne Shaffer. “Our keeper makes a great save and one of their players throws a half bicycle kick that falls to the feet of one of their guys. It’s just been our luck this year. From there our confidence was shot.”
Irvine proceeded to score for a second time in the 68th minute and shortly after a UC Davis red card forced the Aggies to play a man down.
The Anteaters added a third goal in the 69th minute and the game ended at 3-0.
UC Davis was outshot 11-4 in the second half.
It was one that the Aggies wanted to forget.
“We need to put this one behind us,” said senior defender Chris Beville. “We’ll practice really hard and play through it.”
Saturday – UC Davis 1, Cal State Northridge 0
UC Davis tried to turn things around on the road against Cal State Northridge.
The Aggies got off to a fast start, and were able to score the first goal of the game in the 24th minute when Jacob Barron’s indirect free kick set up John Joslin for a shot into the left side of the net.
It was just the third time this season that the Aggies have scored first and it swung the momentum in their direction.
“It’s very difficult to take the early lead on the road,” Shaffer said. “We started fast. Our team was excited and motivated to play hard. We had several early chances and we got the score. It gave us confidence and energy for the rest of the game.”
From that point forward UC Davis relied on their defense.
The Aggies held the Matadors scoreless for the remainder of the game, largely due to the play of their back line.
“The biggest thing for us was the play of our goalkeeper and our back four,” Shaffer said. “They did a great job. We didn’t give up many dangerous opportunities and we created our own luck.”
The victory marks the Aggies’ first road win of the year and more importantly, their first conference win.
“It’s huge for us,” Shaffer said. “It’s huge for us to get these three points in the Big West. It keeps us in the thick of the race to make the Big West playoffs. It feels like there’s a big monkey off our back now.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.