UC Davis men’s soccer stuns eighth-ranked UCSB

The UC Davis men’s soccer team pulled off one of the greatest wins in the program history over UC Santa Barbara 1-0 on Saturday at Aggie Soccer Field.

Junior Alex Henry curled a direct free kick into the upper left corner of the goal with five minutes to go to give the Aggies a last-minute lead. Junior Omar Zeenni and the UC Davis defense shut out the stunned eighth-ranked team in the nation with spectacular soccer.

The team won its fourth-straight game, improving to 6-4-4 overall. With a 4-1 conference record, the Aggies are now in second place in the Big West Championships. They stand only one point behind Sacramento State.

“It’s a great accomplishment for this team and a huge win for the UC Davis athletics program,” said head coach Dwayne Shaffer. “UC Santa Barbara is one of the pinnacle programs in the country, but I thought we were the better team on the day.”

In front of a season-high 1,344 fans, Alex Henry lined up a direct free kick at the 84:50 mark on the right wing. His shot soared into the upper left corner of the goal past the hands of Gauchos goalkeeper Austin Mansker.

The Aggies’ last victory against the Gauchos was on Oct. 11, 2008. The last time UC Davis beat UCSB at Aggie Soccer Field was on Nov. 23, 2006.

UCSB took its first shot at the 16:46 mark, but Omar Zeenni was easily able to block Peter McGlynn’s shot. Zeenni totaled three saves and now claims fourth place in the UC Davis history books for career shutouts.

Zeenni came up with two spectacular saves within two minutes to keep UCSB off the board.

In the 56th minute, the Gauchos lined up a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. Fifi Baiden passed it back to McGlynn who ran onto the ball and pelted a hard strike at the goal, but Zeenni dove to the ground to cover the ball.

Just one minute later, McGlynn served a shot into the air towards the upper left corner of the goal, but Zeenni stretched and caught the ball for the save.

“Omar did a great job in directing his defense and I thoughtRyan Gross, Brian Ford, Ramon Martin Del Campo and Alex Henry were outstanding today,” Shaffer said. “Mustafa Chopan is a fifth-year senior who does so much work for us in the center of the midfield and he was outstanding today as well. It was a great overall team effort in front of a huge crowd today. Hopefully the fans come back because they got to see a great soccer game.”

Following Henry’s shot, the UC Davis men’s soccer team rejoiced and celebrated, feeling more confident and healthier than ever before.

“It’s a great win and puts us in a great position in the conference,” Shaffer said. “Our goal is to finish in the top two and have a shot to make the Big West Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.”

The team now commences a three-game road trip, starting with Cal Poly on Tuesday. The Aggies will have one more matchup with the Gauchos in a couple weeks down in Santa Barbara.

VEENA BANSAL can be reached at sports@theaggie.org.

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