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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

UC Davis women’s soccer: a strong contender in the “Wild, Wild West”

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

A late comeback leads to a 3-2 victory for the Aggie’s home opener

Hundreds of people crowded the bleachers on the windy night of Thursday, Oct. 6 at Aggie Soccer Field to support the UC Davis women’s soccer team’s Big West Conference home opener against the CSU Fullerton Titans.

Coming off of a tie in double overtime on the road against CSU Northridge, the Aggies wanted a win for their campaign toward a Big West Championship title.

“It’s our year,” said Andi Damian, senior forward. “That’s what we’ve been saying and we’re going with that.”

A vibrant buzz filled the air as players took the field, but that elation slowly faded as the Titans scored back-to-back goals in the first half.

The bleachers were not as packed by halftime, and it looked pretty bad for UC Davis as the second half wound down. But in the 71st minute, with a quick cross from freshman forward Nicole Carson off the endline, junior forward Zuzu Romano kicked it into the Titans’ goal and the Aggies were finally in on the board.

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

UC Davis took over from there. The Titans fouled one of the Aggies inside the 18-yard line, sending Damian to take the penalty kick. Though the CSU Fullerton goalie deflected it, the ball inched passed the end line, tying it up 2-2 in the 75th minute. The energy at the field was electric once more as fans got on their feet.

The Aggies kept pressing, getting 14 shots and seven corner kicks in the second half. Junior midfielder Sydney Burger sent the ball inside to freshman midfielder Alicia Sloss, who had only seen about five minutes of preseason action after recovering from an ACL injury. Sloss didn’t let that stop her as she evaded her defender with a spin move before taking the game-winning shot that just slipped by the Titans’ goalie.

The Titans made one final attempt as the clock expired, but the shot was wide right, and the Aggies secured their first conference victory 3-2.

Head coach Twila Kaufman said that the team needed this victory if it was going to win the Big West Championship.

“The thing is not to play like you’re two goals back, but to play with that childlike faith, just encouragement and joy, and to go out and score five goals. And they found a way to score three,” Kaufman said.

The UC Davis women have never won a Big West Championship, but they’re confident that this is their year to do so. After watching their match against CSU Fullerton, it’s easy to believe them.

With 22 underclassmen, four juniors and four seniors, the Aggies still have some growing to do. The coaching style of playing the ball in the middle and backfield has remained the same and the youth of the team hasn’t been a setback for them, according to Kaufman.

“When we got here, our staff said we’re not trying to flip a program, we’re trying to build a program and so we’ve been layering stuff in,” Kaufman said. “It just takes time. They’re still learning and growing and we’re very proud of them.”

This year’s team helped make up Sloss’ mind to play despite having the option to redshirt for the season, meaning that she could have sat out a year of competition so as not to impact her four-season eligibility of college competition.

“I’m so glad I didn’t redshirt because I wanted to play with the seniors,” Sloss said. “This is their last year and I feel like it’s going to be a great

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

year for them.”

The women’s team has the potential to go all the way this year. The Aggies went undefeated in the spring season with this year’s freshmen and without last year’s senior players.

They had a rocky preseason, staying below .500 in non-conference play this fall, but with their win against the Titans, the Aggies have something to prove for themselves.

“Up until about two days ago, we called this the Wild, Wild West and that’s just because when you have this many young people, you might have to go out and win a game 3-2 instead of 1-0,” Kaufman said.

With this win, the Aggies then traveled to face the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine in Oahu last Saturday and fell 2-0 after outshooting Hawai’i 13-12 in the Big West Conference showdown.

UC Davis women’s soccer heads back to compete in its final three back-to-back home matches, beginning with UC Irvine on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 3 p.m., UC Riverside on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 1 p.m. and Long Beach State on Friday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m.

 

Written by: Nicolette Sarmiento – sports@theaggie.org

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