It was a game the Aggies needed to win.
Their goal all season long had been to gain a spot in the Big West Conference Tournament. A loss to UC Riverside would most likely put an end to their hopes of playing in the post-season.
Unfortunately for UC Davis, they fell to the Highlanders and their season ended.
The Aggies came out of the gates strong in the first few minutes.
“We pressed hard right at the start,” said coach Dwayne Shaffer. “We were on the attack for the first few minutes.”
Things changed quickly, however, as UC Riverside found the net following a long ball from their goalkeeper.
“He gathered the ball,” Shaffer said, “and he punted it over everybody. The ball rolled up to our box. We had a communication issue between our defender and our goalkeeper. There was just a moment of hesitation, and their striker ran in and put the ball in the net from 15 yards out.”
From that point, UC Davis was forced to play catch-up.
Despite outshooting the Highlanders 13-8 for the game, the Aggies were unable to find the net.
“We put ourselves in some good positions offensively,” Shaffer said. “We just didn’t put the shots on frame and force their keeper to make saves. I think we had our adrenaline pumping, because we kept firing the ball at the goal instead of trying to place it on frame. I think some of the shots we took are still in orbit.”
The game ended at the score of 1-0, in favor of UC Riverside.
It was the third time the Aggies had been shut out in a Big West game this season.
The UC Davis loss combined with Cal Poly’s 1-0 win over Cal State Fullerton moved the Aggies into a tie with the Titans for fourth place in the Big West.
Due to the tiebreaker situation, UC Davis was eliminated from the Big West Tournament picture.
It was not the way the Aggies had hoped their season would end, but coach Shaffer is proud of his team’s efforts this year.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about not qualifying for the tournament,” he said. “Our players played really hard all year, and we were in every game we played.”
Shaffer is also pleased about the way his team improved from a year ago.
“We had a better finish than we had last year,” he said. “I feel like we did some really good things to advance the program.”
Now, it’s time for UC Davis to start focusing on next year.
UC Davis will lose only five seniors this winter, and their nine freshmen all gained some valuable experience in this campaign.
“Our 2011 season started as soon as that game ended,” Shaffer said. “Our goals for next year will remain the same: we want to make the Big West Tournament and ultimately get an NCAA Tournament berth.
“I think we’re ready to take our program back to the level we were at in 2006, 2007, and 2008. We can get back to the great program we’re capable of being.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.