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Davis, California

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Nail-biting week for Aggies

Playing close games has become a theme for the Aggies this season, and it continued this week.

The up and down set of matches for UC Davis consisted of a last-minute victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs and an overtime loss to the No. 19 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. With their energy tanks low but their heads held high, the Aggies entered a well-deserved week off until their away game against Cal State Northridge on Saturday.

“It’s always fun to play against these teams. The Big West [Conference] is wide open and we can see why,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said of the week’s matchups.

Freshman Matt Wiesenfarth scored both of the Aggies’ goals, to make it a streak of three games in a row that the freshman has scored.

The Aggies close the week with a record of 4-6-2 overall, 2-2 in conference.

Wednesday – UC Davis 1, Cal Poly 0

In the Wednesday night matchup at Cal Poly, the Aggies took down their familiar foe to win their second game in a row.

The game was scoreless for almost the duration of regulation, despite 20 shots between the two teams.

The Aggies’ goal in the 84th minute resulted directly from a missed opportunity. Wiesenfarth clanged a shot on a wide-open net off the goal post and it appeared the Aggies missed their chance to pull out a victory. Yet, freshman Brian Ford was there to tap the rebound back to Wiesenfarth, who left no doubt the second time, knocking the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

UC Davis held on in the final six minutes for the win and their second Big West victory.

Saturday – No. 19 UC Santa Barbara 2, UC Davis 1 (OT)

Facing the 19th ranked UCSB, the Aggies were heavy underdogs entering Saturday’s game. The Big West powerhouse Gauchos actually held a 0-2 conference record coming into the match, but coming off a win over defending champion No. 3 Akron, UCSB was ready to go entering Saturday’s match.

The Gauchos used their outstanding passing game to keep constant pressure on the UC Davis defense early on.

“UCSB is a good team, and they’ve got two full blown pros at forward … I thought we did a pretty good job of containing them for a large portion of the game,” Shaffer said.

The Gauchos were in charge for most of the first half and were making ominous fast breaks on the right side the whole game. Their fast footwork and polished passing game had the Aggies one step behind from the start.

The seemingly inevitable blow came in the 10th minute, when UCSB earned an indirect kick, which was touched and knocked past sophomore goalkeeper Omar Zeenni into the goal to put UCSB up 1-0.

Wiesenfarth scored his third goal in as many games in the 31st minute when freshman Matt Sheldon crossed a ball that Wiesenfarth drilled to the back of the net from six yards out to knot the game at one-all.

The Gauchos had several opportunities to pull ahead, but saves by Zeenni kept the Aggies in the game. Around the 15 minute mark, UCSB had a one on one chance from about six yards out, but Zeenni made an unlikely block to end the threat. He would amass four saves in the game.

The Aggies also had their chances to pull out an upset, of which the most heartbreaking came with about four minutes remaining in regulation. Sophomore Alex Henry crossed a ball in front of a wide open goal but the Aggies could not connect ball and net to nudge UC Davis to another last minute victory.

The final blow would come when UCSB knocked in the golden goal six minutes into overtime from the boundaries of the goal box.

“They had a couple good chances and we had a couple good chances,” Shaffer said. “We are close, we’re really close.”

MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.


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