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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Column: Upset alert

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2011-12 UC Davis sports season, it’s that you should never take anything for granted when the Aggies are involved.

Whether its men’s soccer shocking multiple top-10 teams, football taking a disappointing loss to Humboldt State or women’s soccer getting a point against No. 19 UC Irvine, it has been an unpredictable few months for UC Davis sports.

That is why I am dubbing 2011-12 the Year of the Upset.

And never was it more apparent than this past week.

The week opened with men’s basketball pulling out the improbable win over Pacific, in a game that very few could have realistically expected them to win.

The team then followed that with an underdog-victory on the road against Northern Arizona — playing under very difficult conditions at an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet (almost one and a third miles) above sea-level.

The most impressive upset of the week, however, occurred at La Rue Softball Field.

After losing four of their first five games, UC Davis softball made a statement in their sixth, pulling an incredible upset over No. 8 Stanford.

With all of these upsets, the natural question to ask is: why?

The answer — teamwork.

Let’s face it, few UC Davis team sports have a player that can single-handedly change a game. There’s no Jared Sullinger on the basketball court, and even dominant pitcher Alex Holmes is now part of the UC Davis coaching staff and will not be returning to the pitchers circle.

Instead it becomes about taking advantage mismatches and working together.

Case in point was men’s basketball’s win over Pacific, where five players scored in double figures, and all nine of the players who saw the floor contributed defensively.

In men’s soccer’s upset over No. 8 UCLA it took a combined effort from all 11 players on the field at any given moment to keep the intensity going in the overtime period.

Even with pitcher Jessica Thweatt’s strong performance in Wednesday’s win over Stanford, the Aggies still needed late-game heroics on offense from JJ Wagoner and Cassandra Ginnis to lock down the victory.

So if we can explain why, can we predict which team will pull the next major upset of the 2011-12 season? In my mind it’s a three-horse race between lacrosse, men’s golf and baseball.

Lacrosse faces an interesting challenge this season, with a relatively young team that should improve as the season progresses. If the team plans to pull out a shocking upset it will have to be April 18 when it hosts No. 6 Stanford.

The game looks like the traditional setup for a shocking win, as the match-up will be the third of four games in seven days for the Cardinal, and with a rivalry game against California just two days later, it seems plausible that Stanford could easily overlook UC Davis.

For men’s golf the upset would be winning the Big West Tournament and the conference title. While the Aggies are the defending Big West champions, last year’s team leaders Austin Graham and Tyler Raber are not taking to the course this season, leaving the team with some big holes to fill.

Still, coach Cy Williams has maintained that his team’s goal is a conference title, and with sophomore Matt Hansen continuing to improve, it seems possible that UC Davis could put together a strong weekend and repeat as conference champions.

Baseball may have the best chance of pulling an upset simply because it will have the most opportunities to do so. UC Davis’ schedule includes games against Stanford, Cal State Fullerton, Arizona, UC Irvine and Fresno State — all of which are either ranked or are receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

And the Aggies have just the type of team that is typically able to pull an upset. Dayne Quist showed how dominant he could be in Friday’s win over Utah, and first-year coach Matt Vaughn has already shown a willingness to be aggressive on the base paths — a trait that is often seen in teams who pull major upsets.

With all of the chances to pull off a shocking victory over the next few months, it looks like we could be in for an exciting spring.

And as this year has shown us, you should never count out the Aggies.

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


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