UC Davis men’s soccer team takes 4-3 loss in penalty kicks to Cal State Fullerton in conference championship
With the stands completely packed, forcing some to stand to watch the game, the UC Davis Aggies men’s soccer team took on the Cal State Fullerton Titans at Aggie Soccer Field in the Big West Conference Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 11. The Aggies were 7-2-1 on the regular conference season going into the game and were looking to bring home the first Big West Championship for UC Davis men’s soccer.
“It makes a huge difference with the amount of noise and cheering that was there,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said with regard to the incredible fan turnout. “The support motivates the players and helps them, and it was awesome. Davis is a soccer community, and it is awesome to see it come back, and hopefully we will keep giving the fans what they want.”
The first half of play was back and forth, with a constant change of possession between both teams. The Titans outshot the Aggies in the first half, taking five shots to the four that UC Davis took, but it seemed that UC Davis was the predominant possessor of the ball for the majority of the first half of play. Sophomore goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley had one save. The Aggies knew at halftime they would have to continue to work hard, with the bustle of the crowd and having to watch the two total yellow cards that they received in the first, making sure they did not add on to that total.
Starting the second half, the crowd was on edge in the 46th minute of the game, when an exciting header by senior midfielder and captain Noah Wilson nearly found the back of the net but was saved at the last minute by the Titans goalkeeper. The second half proved to continue to be exciting, as a shot by Fullerton in the 51st minute from a free kick nearly went in the top corner of the net, but hit the crossbar at the last second, drawing gasps of relief from the collection of fans in attendance. Throughout the remainder of the half, the game continued to be a strong and fast paced performance by both teams, until the 82nd minute, when a flurry of through balls for the Aggies sent a shot to sophomore defender Marco Formico, which was barely saved off of the fingertips of the Titans goalie. UC Davis did not stop the offensive pressure. A cross into the box and a header in the 88th minute by senior wing Evan Barrett seemed to float into the corner of the net, but the Titan’s goalkeeper reached his hand into the air for the save, the ball barely brushing off of his glove, ending what was an incredible and exciting second half of regulation play with the score tied at 0-0, sending the game into extra time.
“Wouldn’t have changed anything the way we came out,” Wilson said. “Maybe we started a little slow but we picked it up and the whole game was a battle. Their [Fullerton] keeper just made some fantastic saves.”
The first half of golden goal overtime play concluded with countless pressure by both teams, the only shot in the entire first half coming from UC Davis. Going into the second half of overtime, the game remained tied at 0-0.
In the 106th minute of play in the second overtime period, it seemed as if the game was over, as a cross on the ground from Fullerton seemed like a wide-open goal, but was just saved off of the fingertips of a diving save by Lapsley. The remainder of the second half of extra time proved to be equal, ending at a 0-0 score, and sending the game into penalty kicks.
It was a very tense moment in the stadium, with all fans sent into a frenzy on who would become Big West Champions. After three made shots by both UC Davis and Fullerton, the Aggies fourth and fifth penalty shots were both missed, with the Titans making their fourth, bringing the penalty score 4-3 in favor of Fullerton, and giving the Aggies the loss.
Even though the Aggies took the tough loss in penalties, Shaffer knew that his team was the better team on the field.
“I thought the first 20 minutes we were a little off, but after that we turned it on and we were doing really well,” Shaffer said. “We created great chances to score a goal, but their goalkeeper made a few unbelievable saves and overall I thought we were the better team, had the more dangerous chances, but have to give credit to Fullerton.”
Shaffer continued his comments, giving recognition to his team and playing amazing soccer all year long.
“As I told them afterward, I told them keep your heads up, you guys were awesome all season and played outstanding soccer,” Shaffer said. “We were top five top goal scoring team in the country, and they should be proud of themselves. The eight seniors on the team contributed heavily today and were outstanding. Let’s make sure we know that we did not lose the game, the game goes down as a tie. The penalty kicks are just what determines it and it is unfortunate the game had to go to penalties.”
Now the Aggies are just waiting for a possible at-large bid for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
Written by: Ryan Bugsch — email@example.com