DAVIS, Calif. -- Seniors Noah Wilson and Kyle Higgins scored 20 seconds apart in the final minute, breaking up a 2-2 tie and sending the UC Davis men's soccer team to the Big West Conference Tournament championship match, defeating visiting CSUN, 4-2, on Saturday afternoon at the Aggie Soccer Field.
The Aggies, who played a man down for the final nine minutes of the contest, improved to 11-7-2 overall and will host either Cal State Fullerton or UC Riverside on Saturday (Nov. 11) at Noon. The Titans and Highlanders face one another in the tournament's second semifinal in Fullerton, Calif.
"It was an exciting game," Shaffer said. "I thought we were way better than them in the first half, but their goalkeeper made at least two brilliant saves to keep them in it. The second half, I give credit to Terry (Davila) and his staff -- those guys did a good job adjusting and they had the better of the second half.
"But it shows the fact that we have eight seniors on the team and we’re an experienced group. I thought they held their composure and played really well. At no point did I ever feel like that game wasn’t ours.”
Rebounding from a 2-0 first-half deficit with goals in the 59th and 82nd minutes, the Matadors finished their season at 10-9-2 overall.
In a tale of two halves, it was a four-goal flurry in the second that highlighted a wild afternoon as the six goals scored tied the Big West Tournament record for most combined goals in a match.
Wilson's game-winner -- and his fifth goal of the season overall -- came with just 22 seconds remaining in regulation thanks to a tremendous individual effort by Higgins during his run down the right side. The environmental science and management major from Missoula, Mont., fought off two defenders near the end line before chipping a ball over a defender and the CSUN goalkeeper to Wilson near the six, who punched it into an open net for the go-ahead score.
“I watched Kyle (Higgins) for the past four years just shred guys going at them and I knew if I could just get to a spot in the box he’s going to beat him," Wilson said. "He played the perfect pass and I just stayed focused and slotted it in. He did all the hard work.”
Higgins added, “I was kind of cherry picking there at the end. We were down a guy. I knew I had to make a play if the time came. They were kind of lazy getting back on defense and I had a one-on-one with the defender. Coach always says to be aggressive so I took him on and got to the endline, picked my head up and Noah made probably a 120-yard sprint, had good position, and I found him.”
The Aggies then added the dagger almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff as Adam Mickelson deflected an attempted clear by the Matadors' keeper. Henrik Regitnig won the race to the loose ball and tried to push it back down the field, but it was stolen back by UC Davis. With Regitnig trying to recover, Mickelson sped down the left side and forced a 2-on-1 with a CSUN defender, threading a pass to the middle of the box to Higgins, who easily tapped it home into an open net for the final score.
It was the team-best sixth goal of the year for Higgins, ranking him tied for fifth on the school's single-season Division I list and giving him 13 for his career, ranking him in a tie for fourth on the program's career Division I list. Wilson, who tallied his 12th career goal to place him in a tie for seventh, moved him into fifth on the all-time list with 33 career points.
Mickelson, meanwhile, posted his seventh assist of the season -- ranking second behind only Dylan Curtis' 11 assists in 2008 on the program's Division I single-season chart. Mickelson's 15 points this year also rank sixth on the single-season chart.
UC Davis got the scoring going quickly in the opening half as junior Justin Wright put home his second of the season in the 10th minute. Senior managerial economics major Lizandro Torres led his teammate with a short pass into the box on the right side, and Wright fired a low shot to the left post for the 1-0 advantage.
Freshman managerial economics major Nabi Kibunguchy made it 2-0 just eight minutes later, netting his second of the season after fighting off a defender and powering a shot through a sliding Regitnig to the left post.
The score remained that way through the rest of the half before CSUN was able to pull a goal back in at the 58:12 mark. Some confusion in the box caught the UC Davis keeper off his line and Emmanuel Usen, Jr., was able to tip a ball played by Daniel Trejo into the middle of the net to make it 2-1.
Darion Mealing then tied things up with his first goal of the year with just over eight minutes to play. Teammate Michael Flores played a ball ahead to Mealing, who cut in near the end line and fired a ball past keeper Wallis Lapsley at a sharp angle that caught the right side netting for the game-tying score.
Wilson finished with a match-high four shots to help pace the Aggies to a 14-11 lead in shots for the match -- including a 10-6 lead in shots on goal. Lapsley finished with four saves in net for UC Davis, while Regitnig made six stops for the Matadors, who got two shots apiece from Mealing, Samuel Dadzie, and Usen, Jr.
The four goals give the Aggies 40 for the year -- the second-highest single-season total in the program's Division I history, just four back of the 2007 squad -- while the 107 points and 27 assists rank second and tied for second on the single-season list.
CSUN (10-9-2 Overall) vs. UC Davis (11-7-2 Overall)
Date: Nov 04, 2017 Attendance: 735
Weather: low 60s, cloudy, damp, slight breeze
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
CSUN................ 0 2 - 2
UC Davis............ 2 2 - 4
1. 9:52 UCD Wright, Justin (2) (Torres, Lizandro) - short pass, runs onto it right side, low shot left post
2. 17:13 UCD Kibunguchy, Nabi (2) (unassisted) - fights off defender, shot through sliding GK to let post
3. 58:12 CSUN Usen Jr., Emmanuel (11) (Trejo, Daniel) - keeper caught off line, tipped in
4. 81:59 CSUN Mealing, Darion (1) (Flores, Michael) - 10 sends ball two 3, sharp angle right post
5. 89:38 UCD Wilson, Noah (5) (Higgins, Kyle) - fast break up right line by 19, goalie off line, kicked in by10
6. 89:58 UCD Higgins, Kyle (6) (Mickelson, Adam) - fast break by 2, 19 kick to center, GK caught off line to open net
Shots: CSUN 11, UC Davis 14
Saves: CSUN 6 (Regitnig, Henrik 6), UC Davis 4 (Lapsley, Wallis 4)