In a year full of late-game magic, with games regularly being decided in the last few minutes, the UC Davis men’s soccer put a meaning to the phrase ‘it ain’t over till it’s over’.
And yet, in a 2-1 loss to No. 15 UC Santa Barbara that exemplified this year’s theme, the Aggies played their last minute of the season.
In the Big West Conference semifinals, the Aggies lost their third close decision of the season to the Gauchos. The loss dropped UC Davis to 7-8-4 and out of contention for an NCAA tournament bid.
“Our team was outstanding and we gave them everything they could handle,” Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer said. “You’d think the law of averages would apply but in all three games everything went their way.”
UC Davis found itself behind just 17 minutes into the game when it surrendered a penalty kick that gave UCSB the 1-0 lead.
The Gauchos tacked on another goal 16 minutes into the second half to go up 2-0, a lead that would all but crush any team.
Yet, in a very familiar position, Shaffer said the Aggies changed tactically, starting to play “UC Davis style soccer, which wreaks havoc on them with quick hard and athletic attacks.”
On a free kick, senior Lance Patterson found junior Dan Reese, who knocked in his third goal of the season to bring the game within reach at 2-1.
Ten minutes remained after Reese’s goal, and the Aggies found themselves, hoping to tie the score and push the game into overtime. But the equalizer never came, despite numerous opportunities for UC Davis and a UCSB team that was low on energy. The Gauchos held on by the tips of their cleats to scrape out the victory.
“I have to tip my hat to the UCSB program, they played really well,” Shaffer said. “The frustration was we were doing everything we were supposed to to score a goal but everything seemed to go their way.”
The loss marks the end of, not only the 2011 season, but the careers of graduating seniors Rene Cuellar and Lance Patterson.
Shaffer lauded the seniors for their contributions to the team both on and off the field, for their leadership and their places as role models on the team. And though the season must end, next year looks bright for UC Davis men’s soccer.
“I was happy for my team, we accomplished our goals and improved a lot this year,” he said. “I’m excited for the next couple years because we’re young and still playing at such a high level.
“We had a good year, the Big West Conference is the second best in the nation for men’s soccer and that’s a tribute to our guys,” Shaffer said. “It came down to the last game and that’s frustrating because we were three minutes away from being champions of the conference, but it was a great achievement in the end.”
MATTHEW YUEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.