UC Davis men’s soccer showed reasons for optimism in the preseason, but its regular season opener was a different story.
After winning their two exhibition contests by a combined score of 8-1, the Aggies were shutout by Saint Mary’s in the first match of the 2011 campaign.
Despite the tough loss, coach Dwayne Shaffer believes the game will ultimately benefit his young team.
“The only way players get better is getting experienced and learning how important every game is,” Shaffer said.
Tuesday – UC Davis 2, Chico State 0 (Exhibition)
In its final scrimmage, UC Davis showed it was ready for the regular season.
The Aggies beat Chico State by a score of 2-0, fending off a strong offensive attack from the visiting Wildcats.
Freshman Matt Sheldon continued his preseason tear, scoring a goal early in the second half to bring his tally to a combined four in two scrimmages.
Junior Ethan Shawlee’s header found the net in the 62nd minute made it a 2-0 game, sealing the victory for the Aggies.
Starting goalkeeper sophomore Omar Zeenni held Chico State scoreless for nearly 55 minutes before junior Matt Provencher and freshman Kris Schultz completed the shutout.
Saturday – Saint Mary’s 1, UC Davis 0
Although all signs indicated the Aggies would emerge victorious in its first regular season game, the stars did not align and UC Davis walked away with a 1-0 defeat.
The Aggies tallied nine shots in the match, but Saint Mary’s goalkeeper Doug Herrick stopped all five on goal to hold UC Davis scoreless.
Although his team was shutout, Shaffer was pleased with the goal-scoring chances the Aggies created.
“We played well, and we are still working on playing a little better as a group,” he said. “We created good opportunities but unfortunately didn’t put the ball in the goal.”
While UC Davis would certainly have preferred a victory, Shaffer knows it is early in the season and his team will grow with experience.
“The urgency and intensity of the games will only be learned by playing, so I’m looking forward to our team coming back stronger next time,” Shaffer said.
Indeed UC Davis will need a stronger showing in its upcoming matches. The Aggies will face major challenges as they return home to face Seattle University and No. 6 UCLA on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
UC Davis was shut out by Seattle University last season, and UCLA returns eight starters from a squad that went 16-5-1 in 2010.
“We know what [Seattle University and UCLA] bring to the field,” Shaffer said. “They are outstanding teams and hopefully we will be ready.”
With two difficult games ahead, UC Davis will be hoping to gain all the strength it can from its home-field advantage.
“Our field plays to our speed and quickness. We are excited to play in front of our fans so hopefully Aggie soccer fans will come out and support us,” Shaffer said.
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at email@example.com.