It’s a good time to be a UC Davis defender.
Not only have the Aggies held their opponents scoreless in the last three games, but the last two have featured game-winning goals from members of the back line.
Defenders scored the only two goals of the week as UC Davis powered past UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge.
Wednesday – UC Davis 1, UC Riverside 0 (OT)
UC Davis began their three-game home stand with a matchup against UC Riverside.
The Aggies began the game on the offensive.
UC Davis created multiple opportunities in the first half, including two shots by junior Lance Patterson that came close to finding the back of the net.
Despite outshooting the Highlanders 7-4, the Aggies entered that break at a 0-0 tie.
The second period yielded the best opportunity of regulation as a Patterson header found its way over the crossbar.
Still the teams were unable to score, and the game entered overtime.
It took just one opportunity in the extra period for the Aggies to find the net.
A corner kick from freshman Kevin Schulte found the head of senior defender Nate Javadi and the ball found its way into the net to end the game.
It was Javadi’s first goal of the season and it could not have come at a better time.
“It was really exciting,” Javadi said. “We should have gotten a score earlier in the game. I’m just glad we were able to pull off the win.”
Coach Dwayne Shaffer was happy for his team.
“I’m proud of the way we battled,” he said. “It’s always nice to see a senior captain step up and score a goal.”
Still, he knew it was a result they needed to have.
“In this conference you’re expected to win at home,” Shaffer said. “It’s key for us to take care of business in Davis.”
Saturday – UC Davis 1, CSU Northridge 0 (2OT)
It was a similar story for the Aggies in Saturday’s home match against CSU Northridge.
UC Davis had scoring opportunities early in the game, highlighted by a breakaway that left Patterson one on one with the goalkeeper.
Again, however, the Aggies were unable to convert in regulation, and the game entered overtime.
UC Davis dominated the scoring chances in the extra period and it appeared that Javadi might have been the hero again, but his header flew just wide of the post.
The game was finally decided in the 107th minute when defender Ethan Shawlee took a cross from freshman Elliot Hord and headed it into the net.
Shawlee knew this was a big goal for the Aggies.
“It was huge knowing that we needed the three points,” he said. “We have to win these games at home. I was happy to step in. This was my moment.”
Shawlee’s late game heroics were made possible by another strong performance from the UC Davis defense.
Freshman Goalkeeper Omar Zeenni produced his third straight clean sheet and made several key saves to keep the Aggies in the game.
Despite his individual performance, Zeenni knows it was a team effort.
“I have an experienced back four in front of me,” he said. “They trust in me and I trust in them. I’m just glad we put ourselves in a position to win.”
Even more impressive is that the UC Davis defense was able to hold the shutout without the services of Rene Cuellar or Mustafa Chopan for most of the game.
“To have two defensive starters go down is tough,” Shaffer said, “but we had two guys step in and play really well.”
With the win, UC Davis is guaranteed to hold at least third place in the Big West Conference.
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at email@example.com.