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Friday, December 3, 2021

Column: It’s torture

Last year’s UC Davis men’s soccer was compared to the mantra: Giants baseball – its torture.

The tag line summarized the string of dramatic victories that led to San Francisco’s Championship season last year.

UC Davis men’s soccer fans thought last season’s run of a then-record six overtime contests and numerous more one-goal losses constituted high drama.

Those UC Davis supporters had no idea what they would be in for in 2011.

Never before has an Aggie team played in so many dramatic contests, and just when you think the run of close matches must come to an end, UC Davis finds a way to play yet another nail-biter.

Just a single game this season has been decided by more than one goal, but the drama goes well beyond that.

This team simply does not know how to finish a game in 90 minutes.

Nine of UC Davis’ 15 games this year have required at least one extra period, just two behind the NCAA Division I record of 11 overtime games in a season. That string includes four double-overtime affairs and a streak of five-straight overtime contests at home that was snapped in late September.

Add to that the two games against Cal Poly that were both decided within the final six minutes and you have very stressed groups of players and fans.

And not only have the games been close, but the Aggies have also gone to overtime in all of their high-profile match-ups.

UC Davis’ biggest home-win of the season came in an overtime thriller over then sixth-ranked UCLA – a game that featured more ups and downs than most teams go through over the course of a season.

A month later UC Davis had a chance to stun another nationally ranked opponent when UC Santa Barbara paid a visit to Aggie Soccer Field, but failed to capitalize on late chances before losing 2-1.

The Aggies then followed that with their 2-1 overtime upset win over No. 4 UC Irvine Wednesday, in a game no one would have predicted they could win.

“I guess it makes the fans stay in their seats,” said sophomore midfielder Alex Aguiar. “We’ve been working our butts off through every game and these [dramatic] wins are just that much more exciting.”

With a record of 4-3-2 in overtime contests, it’s hard to guess how any of these games will end, a proposition that causes Aggie fans just a little extra stress on top of the already tense soccer scene.

And for those faint-of-heart Aggie fans, I have some bad news: Don’t expect the madness to end anytime soon.

UC Davis is preparing for a dogfight in the unpredictable Big West Conference. They currently sit tied for first in the league, and are nearly assured a place in the Big West tournament, but there is still a lot left to play for.

A top-two finish in the conference would give the Aggies home field advantage in their first-round playoff game, and should it hold on to its to position in the standings, UC Davis would host all of its tournament games.

The Aggies’ next match is a rematch with UCSB, a team that is bound to make a late-season run, and a game that has overtime written all over it.

UC Davis will follow that with matches against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside as the teams jockey for position in the Big West standings.

And once the Aggies make the playoffs, the madness will undoubtedly follow them there. UC Davis will have a reasonable shot at winning the Big West and making an NCAA Tournament appearance – but as Coach Dwayne Shaffer always says: “Once you make it to the conference tournament, anything can happen.”

And should they make it that far, you can bet that anything will include a string of dramatic finishes – and yes, a healthy dose of overtime.

TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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