DAVIS, Calif. -Matt Sheldon scored in the 26th minute then Ian Palmer sealed a 2-0 victory with his first career goal in the 82nd minute as the UC Davis men's soccer team shut out Cal State Fullerton in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Aggie Soccer Field in Davis.
For the first time in program history, UC Davis advances to the championship game and will face the winner between Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Aggie Soccer Field.
Tickets are on sale now through the UC Davis Ticket Office by calling (530) 752-AGS1 or visiting ucdavisaggies.com. General admission seating is set for $10 while student admission is $5.
The game will be televised live on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports San Diego and Fox College Sports.
UC Davis improves to 10-6-4 overall and own an 8-3 mark in the Big West Conference. It marks the first 10-win season for the men's soccer program since 2008, when the Aggies advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"It's playoff soccer right now, everybody's playing for one more game and I didn't expect anything less from Fullerton," said head coach Dwayne Shaffer. "Bob's got a good team with quite a few seniors in the group who are really good players and I knew they would battle hard to try and move on to the final. Today was our day and we've played well all season and we're looking forward to playing in the final here on our home field."
Sheldon's third goal of the season came at the 26:26 mark after Eric Budniewski crossed a ball in from the right side that floated up and over the Cal State Fullerton defense. Sheldon was on and headed the cross into the upper right corner to give the Aggies a 1-0 lead.
The Aggies took their lead into halftime, then turned up the defensive intensity to ward off 11 second-half shots from Cal State Fullerton. In the 50th minute, Gerzon Blanco and Ian Ramos had shots blocked by the Aggie defense on back-to-back attempts, then Omar Zeenni made a leaping save in the 72nd minute to prevent a goal. Jameson Campbell was open on the left post and sent a header on goal, but Zeenni grabbed the ball out of the air for his only save of the second half.
"Once again Brian Ford, Ramon and Ryan Gross were outstanding today and Lucas came in and won many head balls and defended very well after coming in," said Shaffer. "Omar did his job once again so I just felt like overall our team effort was really strong and they got another shutout. We're playing good soccer at the right time of the year and hopefully we have another good performance on Saturday."
UC Davis nearly found the back of the net after a frantic sequence in the 69th minute. Matt Wiesenfarth had a wide open shot on the right post, but Titan goalkeeper Bryan Escalante deflected it away from the goal. The deflection found John Joslin whose header on goal was cleared off the goal line by a Titan defender, then Eric Budniewski's follow up was smothered by Escalante.
After re-entering the game in the 80th minute, Ian Palmer scored his first goal as an Aggie just over two minutes later. Wiesenfarth received the ball in the middle of the field and made a run through the Titan defense before sending a pass to Palmer as he ran down the right side. Palmer's shot sailed across the goal and into the lower left corner to seal UC Davis' 2-0 victory.
The Aggies will await the winner of the Cal Poly-Cal State Northridge match which kicks off at 7 p.m. in Northridge.