A big crowd, big game, and high stakes signified this weekend for the Aggies.
UC Davis matched up against adversary Pacific in the pool and under the lights Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, the Tigers came out on top 8-3. With the loss, UC Davis drops to 11-5 on the season.
“For me it’s not about the scoreboard, but it’s about the play,” coach Steve Doten said. “We actually did a lot of things that I was very happy about.”
Both teams were very spirited early, resulting in a very physical contest. A questionable foul on the first play of the game gave Pacific the ball and the early advantage.
The Tigers pressured the Aggies early and often, but goalkeeper Kevin Peat refused to allow any ball to pass him as the defense put up a goose egg in the first period.
The Aggies launched their own offensive push in the first as senior Carlos Martinez and junior Walter Eggert both found the back of the net on 6-on-5 power plays to give UC Davis the 2-0 lead.
“Early on, our counter attacks in the front were working,” Doten said. “I was happy to see [Eggert] come in and provide a punch.”
Unfortunately, it was after the first quarter that the Aggies’ offense seemed to lose some of its spark.
The Tigers dominated the ball and worked their way deep into the Aggie defense. With one second left in the half, Pacific took a 3-2 lead on a goal from Goran Tomasevic.
The Tigers would extend their advantage in the second half as their shots finally managed to get by Peat.
Though senior Cory Lyle made things interesting by scoring a goal of his own in the third quarter, the Aggies were offensively ineffective from that point on.
“I think we got caught sitting on offense a couple of times,” Doten said. “We got stuck and played to their defense.”
While the team lost, Doten remains particularly optimistic.
“We missed a couple opportunities that we shouldn’t have,” Doten said. “But overall, our guys want to work and they want to swim. What else do I want? The only thing I wish we did better was put some shots away.”
Of note was the interior defense of the Aggies, spearheaded by center Aaron Salit.
“We shut down their centers,” Doten said. “That was our main objective. Their centers didn’t have their way with us like [California] did. Center defenders Stuart Dooley and Matt Vowell are a handful of guys we need to continue down the path and be effective.”
Prior to Friday’s game against the No. 7 Tigers, the Aggies were ranked 11th nationally. All five of the Aggies losses have come at the hands of higher ranked teams.
Still, if the Aggies want to break into the upper echelon of squads and be considered a top-10 contender, they have some work to do. A victory over Pacific would have certainly helped.
“We have a long way to go if we want to be competitive in conference,” Doten said.
The Aggies get a chance to reassert dominance as they host UC San Diego Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Schaal Aquatic Center.
MATT WANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.