Sept. 12, 2013
MORAGA, Calif. - A penalty kick converted by sophomore midfielder Ryan Gross in the 42nd minute of Thursday's non-conference game from Saint Mary's Stadium helped the Aggies leave Moraga, Calif., with a 1-0 victory.
With the win, UC Davis improved its record to 2-3-0 and earned the program's first-ever victory over the Gaels on their home field. Saint Mary's slips to 2-2-0 on the year with the result.
"I thought my team played well in every aspect of the game, especially at Saint Mary's, since that is a difficult place to play," said UC Davis head coach Dwayne Shaffer.
Gross' goal, plus a stellar display of defense from UC Davis helped the Aggies hand the Gaels their first home loss of the year.
"We moved Matt Sheldon wide," said Shaffer describing the action leading up to his team's penalty shot, "Saint Mary's defenders had a hard time trying to contain him. Matt kept moving around the box, then cut towards the inside (of the penalty area). That move caught the defender off-guard, forcing him to find a way to slow Matt down, that's how the foul was drawn."
The penalty opportunity is the second one drawn by Sheldon in as many games.
As was the case in each game played by the Aggies this year, the team outshot its opponent — this time by a 9-7 figure. Unlike their previous four games played, UC Davis did not allow a shot on goal to Saint Mary's.
By earning his 15th career shutout, senior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni now sits two shy of matching the program record of 17 clean sheets set by Nic Platter throughout his four years as an Aggie.
UC Davis nearly jumped out to an early lead in the 23rd minute, were it not for the efforts from Saint Mary's goalkeeper Andre Rawls as he turned away a header from junior defender Sam Hoeck
to keep the Aggies off the scoreboard.
A header from Sheldon, a junior forward, the first taken by either team in the second half nearly doubled the Aggies' advantage. Another save by Rawls with just under seven minutes remaining on a shot from Sheldon kept the Gaels within striking distance by keeping their deficit to a solitary goal.
On one end of the pitch, Gross and Sheldon led UC Davis with two shots, on the other side the Aggies conducted a defensive clinic for fans in attendance by frustrating the Gaels' strikers all day long. So stifling were UC Davis' corps of midfielders and defenders, Saint Mary's could not even organize itself on offense long enough to even enter the Aggies' penalty area.
"The players stepped up to earn the shutout. Brian Ford returned, Ramon (Martin Del Campo), Alex Henry, Andre (Brown), Elliott Hord and Omar (Zeenni) played really well," added Shaffer.
UC Davis will look to complete a sweep of its matches this week in a Sunday afternoon match from Aggie Soccer Field against San Francisco. Kickoff will take place at 5 p.m.
"The players worked hard all week and truly deserved to win this match, this was a total team effort. Players who had limited playing time, like Matt Wiesenfarth, Dashiell MacNamara and Ryan Caro played well and helped the team play better. The players are excited to get back to training for the two sessions leading up to Sunday's San Francisco game."