The women’s World Cup has passed, so local ‘football’ fans can now turn their heads toward the UC Davis men’s soccer team as they thirst for the thrill that can only be quenched by the beautiful game itself.
The Aggies are looking to improve on last season’s fifth place Big West Conference finish and they believe they have the talent to do so. In order to progress this season, however, the Aggies will first need to remain at full strength.
“Health is our number one concern because we have a very large group of talented returning players,” said head coach Dwayne Shaffer. “They gained a lot of experience last season so we can enter this season knowing Division I soccer.”
Staying healthy is the top priority this season for the team because they have the depth and talent, Shaffer believes, to go the distance.
“My goal as a coach is to win a national championship and to win the Big West Conference Championship,” Shaffer said. “We filled some of our needs; we have very good players and good incoming recruits that will need to acclimate to the [Division I] environment.”
There are a number of players promising to make a strong impact from the moment the Aggies kickoff their season.
Defender Rene Cuellar and forward Lance Patterson hope to lead the team to victory in their final seasons of eligibility. Patterson is an offensive force, leading the team in both goals scored and shots on target last season.
“Patterson is one of the most talented players I’ve coached in my career when he’s healthy,” Shaffer said.
The Aggies will also rely on a class of talented sophomores. Second-year midfielders Kevin Schulte, Alex Aguiar and Alex Henry will all be looking to improve on strong freshman seasons.
On challenge for UC Davis will be replacing defenders Chris Beville and Nate Javadi, both of who have graduated. To help offset the loss, Shaffer has chosen to move junior Dan Reese back to his natural position as a central defender, after Reese played last season as a forward.
The Aggies have also improved their team this off-season by adding a solid group of freshmen.
“We have several good leaders who are experienced and will step it up for us,” Shaffer said. “But I’m also very excited for the group of freshman we have coming in.”
Indeed, with an arsenal of nine new recruits, the Aggies will have a fresh look as they take the field. Several new faces have the ability to battle for starting positions, a testament to the depth of the roster.
While the Aggies boast a talented squad, the team will certainly be tested as they face some of the top teams in the nation.
This season’s schedule features two contests against No. 9 UC Santa Barbara and a home contest against No. 2 UCLA.
UC Davis will open its season Aug. 27 against Saint Mary’s.
Matthew Yuen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.