Teams: UC Davis vs. Cal State Fullerton; vs. UC Riverside
Records: Aggies 7-7-2 (5-3-0); Titans 7-6-4(1-5-2); Highlanders 9-5-3(4-3-2)
Where: Aggie Soccer Field; UCR Soccer Stadium — Riverside, Calif.
When: Wednesday at 3 p.m.; Saturday at 6 p.m.
Who to watch: Mustafa Chopan has logged the third highest amount of playing time of all position players on the UC Davis team. He has managed three shots and an assist over the course of the season.
Yet, defensive prowess is what Chopan can be better associated. The junior from Citrus Heights, Calif. is a strong component in the Aggies’ wall-like defense and can be found patrolling the backfield for the majority of every game.
Did you know? Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer has pointed out that every soccer stadium is different, from the dimensions to the distractions.
The Aggies have had a slight home field advantage, as 10 of UC Davis’s 18 regular season games (including today’s against Cal State Fullerton) have been at Aggie Soccer Field.
UC Davis will face a unique challenge on Saturday, however, as UC Riverside Soccer Stadium is the only stadium in Big West Conference with an artificial-turf field.
Preview: Often hailed as one of the toughest college soccer conferences in the nation, the Big West is in a tight race. The top four teams go to the Big West tournament, a playoff whose reward is a berth in the NCAA tournament and a chance to battle for a national title.
UC Davis finds itself as one of the front-runners, holding a second place standing behind UC Irvine. The Aggies can lock up a conference postseason appearance with a victory in either one of the games this week.
“We don’t concern ourselves with standings. We aren’t focused on anything other than playing well and staying healthy,” Shaffer said.
When asked whether he expected his team to be in this position at this point of the season, Shaffer replied “Absolutely.”
“They have a tremendous amount of experience now and we’re as good as anyone we play,” he said. “Nobody has proven to be way better than us at all and we’re still improving every day.”
UC Davis is coming off its second loss of the season to a strong UC Santa Barbara team that finds itself in fourth place in the Big West, despite being nationally ranked.
In a season where UC Davis has had victories snatched from them by chance and bad luck, the Aggies finally control their own fate. These final two games can put UC Davis in the Big West tournament, as well as determine a home field advantage for the competition.
Still, a postseason appearance is far from a guarantee at this point, and the Aggies are going to come out full steam ahead until the season is done.
“[CSU Fullerton] is a very good team and we haven’t played them yet,” Shaffer said. “But they have to come to our home field so it’s looking good for us. We will be ready.”
— Matthew Yuen