UC Davis claims top spot in the Big West

On Saturday night in Sacramento, the UC Davis men’s soccer team beat Sacramento State 3-1 to claim the top spot in the Big West Conference Championships.

The Aggies now maintain 15 points in the Big West, while Cal Poly and Sacramento State are tied for second with 13 points. UC Davis has improved to a 7-5-4 overall record and 5-2 in the Big West.

The Aggies started off slowly in the first half, but were able to regroup during halftime and pick up their energy and momentum to score three goals within a 19-minute span.

“This was the strongest performance that I can remember,” said Coach Dwayne Shaffer. “We were on fire, played perfect soccer and came away with a win.”

In the 40th minute, Isaac Ikyurav of Sacramento State fired a shot on the near post from only eight yards out. Junior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni managed to get a hand on it, but the shot deflected off of Zeenni and soared into the top of the net.

The Aggies fired up in the second half, outshooting the Hornets 16-0. Junior forward Alex Aguiar set the tone for the offensive plays, attempting four shots in the first thirteen minutes of the second half.

Sophomore defender Brian Ford scored the equalizing goal in the 60th minute, making this his first goal of the season. Ford was able to head in junior forward Alex Henry’s corner kick.

The Aggies’ morale and confidence boosted significantly and from there they played stellar soccer to seal the victory. Freshman Eric Budniewski scored his first career goal in the 68th minute to give the team the lead.

Aguiar crossed a ball into the box and found Budniewski in the far post. Budniewski struck the ball past the Hornet goalkeeper to give UC Davis the 2-1 lead.

Senior John Joslin scored his first goal of the season to give the Aggies a total of three on the game. Junior forward Elliott Hord passed the ball to Joslin, who then pelted the shot into the lower left corner.

From there, the Aggies played solid defense and closed out the game on a strong note.

“At halftime I asked them to play a little bit harder,” Shaffer said. “Ford played outstanding. His tying goal off a corner kick showed his leadership. Joslin played hard all game and Budniewski played perfectly. We have a really good team.”

Next, the Aggies look forward to the second half of Big West divisional play with an awaited matchup against UC Santa Barbara. In their last game on October 13th, the Aggies came away with a 1-0 win.

“It should be a great matchup,” Shaffer said. “They have a great stadium, great facilities. Hopefully, we’ll be coming out with a win.”

In the meantime, the Aggies plan to remain mentally and physically healthy. Throughout the regular season and the Big West, the team’s physique, mentality and performances have been stellar. Time and time again, the Aggies have proved that they are one of the best teams in the league.

“I think that being number one in the league is outstanding,” said Shaffer. “The Big West is one of the toughest conferences in the country. It makes us proud to represent UC Davis soccer and the Athletics Department.”

UC Davis will face UC Santa Barbara on October 28th at Harder Stadium at 2 p.m.

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

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