Nov. 6, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. -- UC Davis junior Matt Sheldon poked home the game-winning goal with just 27 seconds remaining in regulation and the Aggies scored twice in the final five minutes of the match to hand visiting Cal Poly a, 2-1, defeat and clinch a berth to the Big West Conference Men's Soccer Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at the Aggie Soccer Field.
"As everybody knows, we've had several of those results go against us just like that so you could just sense and see the relief of the players coming out on the end of this match," Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer said. "I thought it was a great game, give Cal Poly credit, they're a good team and very hard to play against the way that they play, but I thought my guys were prepared for it."
The win snapped a four-match winless streak for UC Davis, which improved to 7-8-3 overall and 3-4-2 in Big West play, posting its first victory since a 2-0 shutout at UC Riverside on Oct. 13. The three points moved the Aggies into a tie with the Mustangs for second place in the league's North Division with 11 points and gave UC Davis the head-to-head tiebreaker with Cal Poly (10-7-2, 3-4-2) after the two battled to a 1-1 draw back on Oct. 22 in San Luis Obispo.
Sheldon's team-best sixth goal of the season came at a perfect time with less than a minute to play. Sophomore Ryan Gross' throw in from the left side sailed to the top of the box where it was flicked on by sophomore Hoshang Hatifie toward the right side. Sheldon made his run onto the ball and poked it past a sprawling Wade Hamilton in net to the right post for the game-winner.
It was the Oregon native's team-best third game-winner of the season and gave him the most goals by a UC Davis player since Lance Patterson finished with the same number in 2010. Sheldon has scored in back-to-back matches and three times in the team's last six outings.
Sheldon's score came almost four minutes after the Aggies equalized on Matt Wiesenfarth's fifth tally of the year in the 86th minute as the junior's rocket to the right post drew his side even. Four of Wiesenfarth's five goals this season have come in Big West Conference play as the Sacramento native found the back of the net for the first time since Oct. 19 against UC Santa Barbara.
UC Davis outshot Cal Poly, 13-9, but fell behind early as Mackenzie Pridham netted his 14th goal of the season in the 19th minute. Pridham popped the ball up and over his defender at the top of the box and fired to the right post for the 1-0 lead. It was his 27th career goal, setting a new Mustangs record.
"Unfortunately, we gave one away early in the first half and I thought our first half was not very good, but in the second half I thought my team showed the type of pride and the type of fight that UC Davis soccer has been known for for 17 years since I've been here," Shaffer said. "I think a lot of our reserves stepped in and fought hard and gave us the lift and the energy necessary to get a dramatic victory. It feels awesome. It feels great."
The Aggies nearly had the equalizer with just five minutes to play in the opening half off a nifty corner kick sequence. From the right corner Alex Henry sailed a ball to the back post where it was headed back toward the middle of the box by Brian Ford to Ramon Martin Del Campo, whose ensuing header was just tipped over the bar by Hamilton.
With just over a minute left in the first half, UC Davis thought it had the tying goal once again as the ball was knocked away from Hamilton to the feet of Dashiell MacNamara, who put it away. However, the goal was waived off due to a foul in the box, leaving Cal Poly with the 1-0 lead at the break.
Sheldon, Sam Hoeck, and Spencer Williams, each finished with two shots to lead the Aggies, which had 10 different players record at least one shot, and got four saves from senior goalkeeper Omar Zeenni in the win. Pridham led all players with four shots for Cal Poly while Hamilton made five stops in net for the Mustangs.
Both offenses were pressing throughout the match, combining for 16 offside whistles -- nine of those against Cal Poly.
With a tournament berth in hand, seeding for the first round of the Big West Tournament will come down to the final day as UC Davis battles Causeway Cup rival Sacramento State on Saturday (Nov. 9) at 2 p.m. in the regular season finale for both teams at Hornet Field. Meanwhile, the Mustangs will face off against UC Santa Barbara, which battled to a scoreless draw with the Hornets on Friday, at 7 p.m., in a match to be televised on Fox Sports West.
More information on the Big West Conference Tournament can be found on the league's website at http://www.bigwest.org/sports/msoccer/info/champs/.
NOTES: Wednesday's win marked the first time this season that the Aggies have won when the opponent has scored first (0-8) and the first win when trailing at halftime (0-6)... the two goals on Wednesday were the most for UC Davis since it scored twice in a, 3-2, double-overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 19... it marked only the fifth time in 18 matches that the Aggies have scored multiple goals in a match this season... the assist was Ryan Gross' team-high third of the season while Hatifie tallied his first assist of the year... the Aggies are 4-0-2 when Matt Sheldon scores a goal in 2013.