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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Aggies’ men’s soccer team off to a rough start through six non-conference games

UC Davis’s late rally falls short against San Jose State, leaving them with a 0-5-1 record


By MARLON ROLON — sports@theaggie.org


On Wednesday, September 14, the UC Davis men’s soccer team faced off against San Jose State at Aggie Soccer Field. Despite being down 3-0 in the first half, the Aggies stormed back with two late goals in the second half but they fell just short of tying the game.

Coming into the match, the Aggies were expected to be on the offensive early, but that wasn’t the case. They started playing defensively, with San Jose State dominating the early portion of the first half. The Spartans controlled the pace of the game early on, keeping UC Davis away from the ball with their quick passes.

In the first half, the Aggies could hardly generate any offense against a tight Spartan defense that broke up almost every play the home team attempted. On offense, the Spartans spread the field with their superb ball placement on the wings, which also gave the home team issues.

However, in the fifth minute of play, Aggie first-year striker Chase Tanon brilliantly curved a shot from outside the box, narrowly missing the top post. The Spartans midfielder, graduate student Herminio Padilla, immediately responded with a lob pass across the field to first-year striker Riccardo Scarafia, who cut inside the pitch in a one-on-one maneuver, creating enough space to shoot the ball into the net. Within the first seven minutes of the first half, UC Davis trailed 1-0. 

The goal gave momentum to the visiting team, playing team ball with patience throughout the pitch, countering every time the Aggies pressured. In the 27th minute, San Jose State capitalized on an error made by the UC Davis defense, scoring a second goal. The Aggies attempted to pass to the backfield when Spartans’ third-year defender Joel Garcia stole a pass that came up short in a three-on-one scenario. Garcia cut through the traffic and put the ball through the bottom center of the net to make it 2-0.

The Aggies could not contain the Spartans’ offense; just under 10 minutes later, San Jose found the back of the net once again. The goal came off of a header from a well-placed corner kick; second-year midfielder Beau Leroux placed the ball perfectly near the left post to put San Jose State up 3-0. 

UC Davis looked deflated as the first half came to a close. The Spartans’ dominance was evident in the stats; San Jose State shot nine times compared to two shots from the Aggies. 

Coming together as a team has been an issue for the Aggies so far this season — growing pains are to be expected with 13 newcomers.

Heading into the second half, the Aggies needed a miracle to make up for their early deficit. UC Davis Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer swapped goalkeepers, subbing out second-year Spencer Gillen for redshirt second-year Charles Janssen in hopes of preventing the opposition from scoring. The change paid off, and the home team looked like a completely different team in the second half.

 The Aggies came out with a sense of urgency, something they lacked in the first 45 minutes of play. Within the first two minutes of the second half, second-year striker Keegan Walwyn-Bent let his presence be known with a brilliant shot that sent the Spartans’ goalkeeper diving to get a hand on it, sending the ball out of bounds.

From here, UC Davis took control of the game, finding success from the wings attacking with crosses and long passes throughout the second half. Eventually, the Aggies got on the scoreboard in the 68th minute thanks to a precise lob pass from third-year striker Ethan Hoard to second-year midfielder Kevin Welch. Seeing a two-on-one scenario, Welch drew the goalkeeper toward him and brilliantly passed to fourth-year Max Glasser, who tapped the ball into the net to make it 3-1. 

This goal broke a scoreless drought for UC Davis who hadn’t scored a goal since Sept. 4. After scoring, the Aggies looked rejuvenated. The offense played with high intensity, pushing the ball into Spartan territory, and threatening the defense with crosses inside the box in the waning minutes of play. 

In the 69th minute, UC Davis missed a crucial goal-scoring opportunity that could have changed the result of the game. Glasser used his speed to cut into the right side of the box and crossed the ball across the middle to third-year midfielder Ryan Dieter within five feet of the goal, but Dieter missed the wide-open shot. 

The final 11 minutes of regulation were arguably the best 11 minutes the Aggies have played so far this season. Dieter magnificently crossed the ball toward the far post into the box, but the goalkeeper somehow managed to flicker the ball away before the Aggies could head it.

Three minutes later, UC Davis threatened to score once again. This time off, Hoard headered the ball into the crossbar. Dieter attempted to shoot off the rebound, but his shot was deflected away by a defender. 

In the 82nd minute, the Ags notched their second goal of the game thanks to a fantastic finish by first-year defender Zack Lillington — the goal was his first at the collegiate level. UC Davis trimmed the score 3-2, but there wasn’t enough time left on the clock to equalize the game.

San Jose State held off the Aggies’ late rally as time expired. With the loss, UC Davis extended their winless streak in non-conference play. They now sit at 0-5-1 with two non-conference games left on their schedule. 

UC Davis is going through a transition phase due to the departures of 15 players. Some of last year’s graduates were key pieces of the team that made an appearance in the 2019 NCAA tournament, their lone appearance in program history. With 13 new additions and 15 returning players, it will take some time for the players to gel with one another. Moreover, the Aggies are a young team with 11 freshmen, and their lack of experience has been evident thus far on the pitch. 

As the season progresses, the relatively young group will hopefully gain confidence and valuable experience. There is still time to right the ship, but they have to start stringing wins together sooner rather than later if they plan to finish in the top three in the Big West Conference, as was predicted by a Preseason Coaches Poll.


A look ahead

UC Davis will be on the road starting Sept. 20 against the University of Pacific. Then, the Aggies will travel to Santa Clara on Sept. 24 to finish their non-conference run.

UC Davis will host the first conference game of the season against Cal Poly on Sept. 28. On Oct. 1, the Aggies will travel to Riverside to face off against UCR. The Aggies will host UC Irvine on Oct. 5, and on Oct. 8, UC Davis will travel to Northridge to play against CSUN. On Oct. 12 and Oct. 15, the Aggies will host home games against CSU Bakersfield and Cal State Fullerton. UC Davis will hit the road again to play against UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 19. The Aggies will host the last home game of the season on Oct. 22 against UC San Diego and will close the season on the road against their cross-town rivals Sacramento State on Oct. 29.


Written by: Marlon Rolon — sports@theaggie.org