The men’s soccer team’s season ended on a solemn, yet encouraging note a couple of weeks ago at home. The team ended its season with a 1-0 loss to South Division Championships, Cal State Northridge. UC Davis finished with a 10-7-4 overall record and an 8-4 record in the Big West Conference.
The team played very well against CSU Northridge in general, but was unable to recover from an early goal from Matador Sagi Lev-Ari at the 15:45 mark. Lev-Ari put away his 14th goal of the season on an assist from Chris Smith. Smith passed the ball to Lev-Ari in the middle of the field, who fired a hard shot at the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.
Junior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni recorded two saves and several players fired five shots at the goal, but the team was held at zero goals for the entirety of the game. In the 40th minute, freshman forward Eric Budniewski’s strike from outside the 18-yard box was knocked away by Matador goalkeeper Michael Abalos. Sophomore forward Brian Ford and junior forward Alex Henry came up with incredible shots but, unfortunately, were hindered by Abalos.
In spite of its class, the team remained in contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournaments, but were not selected.
“It was pretty disappointing,” Henry said. “But we had a great season and look forward to playing better next year.”
With that, the flashback of memories of the team’s impeccable soccer season commences.
The team started its season with many draws, with four games extending into double overtime. The Aggies developed a solid dynamic and established their confidence with ties against top teams, such as San Francisco and Denver.
Subsequently, however, the Aggies were dealt their first loss, 3-1, at home against UCF. UCF managed to score all three of its goals in the final twenty minutes of play, which was a clear indicator that the Aggies still had improvements to make in their game plan.
Following a strong win over Tulsa, the team experienced a rough patch for several games. SMU scored late in the game to top the Aggies 1-0 and Saint Mary’s took the lead away from the Aggies relatively early in the game and also handed UC Davis its second defeat in a row.
The team dropped its Big West opener against the Matadors with a 2-0 loss. The Matadors struck early with two big goals within the first sixteen minutes of play. The Aggies, fortunately, ended their losing streak at three with a 3-1 victory over UC Irvine.
Juniors Alex Aguiar and forwards Kevin Schulte and Pat Reese each scored a goal to capture their first Big West victory of the season against the Anteaters. The team truly took their game to another level with an incredible all-around effort and solid defense.
With that, the Aggies launched a phenomenal four-game winning streak, all of which were Big West matchups. Schulte scored a goal against UC Riverside and Aguiar and Henry shut down Cal State Fullerton to win 2-1.
Without a doubt, one of the most memorable victories was against nemesis UC Santa Barbara. In front of a season-high of 1,344 fans, Henry lined up a direct free kick at the 84:50 mark on the right wing. He sent a ball into the penalty box, but the shot curled into the upper left corner of the goal and over the hands of goalkeeper Oscar Mansker.
The Aggies fell to Cal Poly, but came to defeat top-seed Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara 2-1 in double overtime. The Aggies officially took over the number one spot in the Big West to clinch the North Division title with a 2-1 thriller over Sacramento State.
The Aggies shut out Cal State Fullerton 2-1 with goals from sophomore forwards Matt Sheldon and Ian Palmer to advance to the final against CSU Northridge.
“We had a great season,” said coach Dwayne Shaffer. “We are going to stick to our game-plan this year and work for next year so that we can achieve better results in the future.”
VEENA BANSAL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.