Nov. 10, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - Omar Zeenni recorded two saves and the UC Davis men's soccer team placed five shots on goal, but the Aggies could not overcome an early goal from Cal State Northridge as the Matadors claimed a 1-0 victory on Saturday in the championship game of the Big West Conference Tournament.
UC Davis moves to 10-7-4 on the year and an 8-4 record in the Big West Conference. With the win, Cal State Northridge receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and improve to 15-6 overall and 8-3 in conference play.
The Aggies are still in position to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The bracket will be announced by the NCAA on Monday at 2:30 p.m. via a live video stream on ncaa.com.
The tournament final pitted the top-seeded teams in each division against each other as both teams advanced to the conference final for the first time in program history.
"I thought we played a great game overall," said head coach Dwayne Shaffer. "In the second half, we were an outstanding team and we created numerous opportunities to put pressure on Northridge and unfortunately one didn't go in for us today. I take my hat off to Cal State Northridge. They're a good team and I know how tough it is to win 15 games in a college season. I am very proud of my team. We played well and we unfortunately gave up a nice goal and just couldn't recover from it."
The goal came at the 15:45 mark from Sagi Lev-Ari who put away his 14th of the season on an assist from Chris Smith. Smith got the ball to Lev-Ari in the middle of the field and he turned and scored off a hard shot that fell just under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.
UC Davis, however, outshot Cal State Northridge 14-8 and won five corner kicks, four of which came in the second half, to build pressure on the Matadors throughout the game.
In the 40th minute, Eric Budniewski's strike from outside the 18-yard box was knocked away by Matador goalkeeper Michael Abalos, but the rebound went into the air. Brian Ford ran onto the ball and made a strong header attempt on goal, but Abalos was there with the save.
The Aggies continued to apply the pressure in the second half, forcing two saves out of Abalos in the opening 15 minutes.
In the 71st minute, Wiesenfarth's attempt off a Kevin Schulte corner kick was blocked by the Matador defense, then Alex Aguiar laid an incredible side volley shot on to goal in the 83rd minute, but Abalos was there to deflect it away.
"Our two center defenders are both very good leaders," said Shaffer. "Ramon is vocal and coaches the team out there and I thought he did a really good job of helping us. Mustafa and Alex Aguiar in the center midfield helped calm us down. I think nerves got to both teams to start the game but once we got settled in we played the same style and system that got us here this year."
Zeenni finished with two saves, including a diving stop in the first half. In the 18th minute, Edwin Rivas took a low hard shot across the goal from the left side, but Zeenni dove to his right and stopped it on the ground.
If selected, the first round of the NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 16 campus sites.