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Davis, California

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Game of the Year

UC Davis’s sports are improving, but what business do they have playing with perennial powerhouses like UCLA?

We may have witnessed the beginning of the end of statements like this one.

The UC Davis men’s soccer program pulled out one of the biggest upsets in school history, possibly in any sport, when it took down the then-No. 6 Bruins in a 2-1 overtime victory.

The Aggies were entering just their third game of the new season having posted an ugly 6-12 mark the previous year. Eight freshmen and five sophomores made it onto the field against UCLA while only four of the UC Davis players that saw playing time were upperclassmen. The Bruins were ranked No. 6 in the country. Enough said.

“UCLA is a very good team; they’ve got some pros on the team, but in the game of soccer, you always have a chance to win,” said head coach Dwayne Shaffer.

In a mismatch that could not have been more pronounced, UC Davis looked outmatched in the first half — it seemed like just a matter of time that the Bruins would squash the young Aggies’ hopes.

Sophomore Alex Aguiar knocked in a goal two minutes into the second half to give UC Davis a 1-0 advantage, but the Aggies could not protect their lead.

UCLA scored with three minutes remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime. As the first overtime period neared a close, neither team was able to pull ahead.

Then, the upset-minded Aggies pulled some late-game magic that would stun the college soccer world. Sophomore Alex Henry nailed a shot from the left side into the opposite corner of the net to give UC Davis the golden goal victory.

“Beating UCLA at our place is a huge win for our program as well as the entire athletic program,” Shaffer said. “If you looked at the players that played that game, they’re all young — it’s a young team that’s only going to get better and better as we go.”

— Matthew Yuen

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