UC Davis men’s soccer claims eighth straight Big West playoff berth
In a test of resolve against a gritty Sacramento State Hornets side, the UC Davis men’s soccer team came out victorious in a causeway matchup to close out regular season play, as other Big West opponents jockeyed for playoff positions in the conference.
This season’s finale decided the fate of both teams. The Aggies advanced to the Big West tournament while the Hornets’ season ended on Saturday. With the win, the Aggies finished fifth in the Big West and booked a trip south to battle CSU Northridge on Wednesday.
“That was a playoff game and everybody kind of knows it,” said Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer. “And my players responded well, the whole week we were excited about a game, it felt nice to get a week off.”
The first time these teams played this season was an exhibition match at Aggie Stadium at the end of September in which senior defender Justin Wright broke through the Hornet backline to knock in a goal, snapping a 1-1 tie in overtime.
Although no team found the back of the net in the first half on Saturday, tensions ran high as four yellow cards were issued. Three of these cards were given to UC Davis, including one for the team, and one for Sac State. The Aggies fired off 10 shots to the Hornet’s five.
Senior midfielder Brian Quintero was injured in the first half and was unable to play after the seven minute mark.
At the 17-minute mark, Hornets forward Benji Kikanovic was run down by Aggie redshirt senior defender Roy Boateng on a breakaway opportunity. Kikanovic suffered an injury on the play, making him unable to play for the first half and part of the second half. Sac State appeared to take issue with the fact that no foul was called, as officials had to call a trainer to the field to tend to the injured Kikanovic.
The Aggies pushed on regardless and struck quickly in the second half.
They started off from the left side of midfield then crossed over to the right as the Aggies set up their attack. A pass to the center from Wright gave freshman midfielder Connor Tipton an easy look at the goal, Tipton’s quick reflexes in the box put the Aggies up 1-0.
Following the score, the Aggie midfield and backline managed to suppress the Hornet attack. Near the game’s end, a tussle nearly turned into a brawl as the Aggie backline and Hornet attackers collided.
All told, the Aggies took five shots on goal while the Hornets took four.
“I love coming over here to Sac State, the games are always really competitive,” Shaffer said. “I’m excited and happy for the team, now we get to compete for our goal, which is to win a Big West title and get into the NCAA tournament.”
The Aggies ended the Matadors’ season on Wednesday and advanced to the semifinals of the Big West tournament, 3-2. UC Davis put nine shots while CSUN fired off 11.
After a relatively even first half, the teams were tied at one. In the second half, an Aggie counterattack had the Matadors struggling to clear the ball and ended up gifting the Aggies with an own goal, making it 2-1.
Wright then broke through defenders on the right side and knocked the ball past CSUN’s goalkeeper high and to the left to give the Aggies some extra cushion, 3-1. The Matadors pressued the Aggie defenders and answered back when CSUN forward Johnny Rodriguez weaved through the backline and scored, 3-2.
UC Davis was able to thwart the Matadors aggressive last ditch efforts. CSUN found the back of the net in an attack in the 85th minute, but the goal was waved off because CSUN’s attacker was called offside.
The Aggies postseason run will continue, as UC Davis is set to face UC Irvine at Anteater Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Written by: Bobby John — firstname.lastname@example.org