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Monday, September 20, 2021

Men’s Soccer turns their sights to Big West

The UC Davis men’s soccer team has been playing phenomenal soccer throughout the duration of the season. The Aggies’ overall record remains at 2-3-4, with losses in the past two games against Saint Mary’s and SMU.
The men’s soccer team remained unbeaten until two weeks ago and matched a program record for most ties in a single season, needing just one more to set a new mark. The Aggies open their Big West Conference play on the road against Cal State Northridge this Friday.
The Aggies shut out their first three opponents, preventing any goals in 310 minutes of play. In a matchup against Air Force, UC Davis warded off 11 second-half shots and 17 total from the Falcons. In addition, junior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni recorded five saves. The performance of the men’s soccer team throughout this game is a testament to the level of defense the team has been playing for the past several months.
“Our defense has been really good,” said sophomore defender Brian Ford. “When our defense is good, this allows our offense to take more time to make shots.”
The Aggies have drawn four matches against CSU Bakersfield, Air Force, Denver and San Francisco, all of which went to double overtimes. Although they have had opportunities to score corner kicks, the defense from the opposing teams has proven to be unyielding as well.
The willpower and tenacity of the Aggies is reflected in every match, whether it be the fighting power of the men’s soccer team at 7,000 feet of elevation against Air Force or stubborn persistence to relinquish a narrow match to the Knights.
The chemistry between the offensive and defensive ends has truly made the defining difference in all of the gripping matches that come down to the wire. Zeenni has made an invaluable difference to the success of the men’s soccer. Recently, he was named Big West Player of the Week for his consistent performances.
He led the UC Davis men’s soccer team to three straight draws on the road and allowed only one goal in 330 minutes of time in the goal. Prior to the goal, Zeenni owned a 358-minute scoreless streak after registering shutouts against ULNV, CSU Bakersfield, and Air Force.
In addition, freshman Ryan Gross dumbfounded the crowd as he led the men’s soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Tulsa. Following his two goals, the defensive end fell into alignment with the offense and played solidly.
Unfortunately, the men’s soccer team’s dynamic has begun to show signs of weakness, as reflected in their recent games against UCF, Saint Mary’s and SMU. They opened with confidence against the Knights, but ultimately conceded goals, resulting in their first season loss. Rebounding from the defeat, Gross scored twice in the victory over Tulsa.
Subsequently, however, SMU scored late to top the Aggies 1-0. The Aggies ended their non-conference season with a 2-0 loss against Saint Mary’s.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to end the non-conference season with a loss. But we will focus on the defense and offense,” said head coach Dwayne Shaffer.
In spite of their two most recent losses, the men’s soccer team comes away with tremendous hope and confidence for their Big West Conference matchups. Currently, the men’s soccer team is physically and mentally preparing themselves for the two-game road trip up ahead against Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine this weekend.
The Matadors maintain a 6-3 overall record with a four-game winning streak, while the Anteaters maintain a 3-5-1 overall record with a three-game losing streak. With a clean slate 0-0 conference record at the beginning of the Big West competition, the Aggies look to remain focused and determined for fierce competitors that come their way.
“We are in a position to win every game,” Shaffer said. “As a coach that’s all I can ask.”
VEENA BANSAL can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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