Oct. 17, 2008
By Wes Collins
UC Davis Athletics Media Relations
Originally published Oct. 4 in Aggie Gameday
The UC Davis men's soccer team is the No. 7 NCAA Division I team in the country by College Soccer News, Soccer America and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). The main reason behind the Aggies' success comes from a potent offense that ranks among the national leaders in goals scored and assists per game. Senior left winger Dylan Curtis might be the most important piece to that offensive puzzle, as his 10 assists in 13 games stands as the nation's second-best total (as of October 12). Not bad for a player who thought he was finished with his collegiate soccer career at this time last year.
As a senior academically, but a junior in terms of athletics eligibility, Curtis entered the 2007 season with the notion that it would be his last. He chose to forgo a fourth year of eligibility to pursue a career with his managerial economics degree. Curtis even participated in the team's Senior Day festivities and went into the offseason with his coaches and teammates thinking he was done.
"I was positive after the season ended that I had played my last game," said Curtis. "There was no question in my mind that I was done."
"Dylan told me before the season started that he was not going to return for his senior year," Aggie head coach Dwayne Shaffer said. "I think his freshman and sophomore seasons were very average by his standards. He had a little bit of frustration about his own play."
But something changed in Curtis' mind following a very successful 2007 campaign in which he was honored as a team captain and team MVP, and rewarded for his academic excellence by being selected as UC Davis' male representative for Big West Conference Scholar Athlete of the Year honors.
"His junior year he came out and was such a dominate force in so many games that his teammates voted him the MVP," said Shaffer. "I think that, coupled with the success of our team, made him realize how good he really was and could be."
Curtis explains that his love for the game of soccer was reignited with some time off and a little pep talk from his family. "After a trip with my family, I realized that I still had a passion for the sport of soccer and I really wanted to come back," explained Curtis. "I had a lot of people telling me it was a bad idea and I needed to take advantage of college. It took me maybe two months of winter to realize that I missed soccer and it was dumb of me not to take advantage of my last quarter."
With Curtis in the lineup, the Aggies have not missed a beat during the 2008 season. In fact, they have arguably been stronger than last year's squad, one that became the first UC Davis team to qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament. Curtis currently leads the nation in total assists and is second in assists per game, while his total of 10 assists places him just one shy of Nikki Bagheri's single season record of 11, set in 1988. Those individual deeds have translated to team success as the Aggies sit in first place in the Big West Conference at 3-0-2.
In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Curtis has remained a student-athlete in the truest sense. He added to his academic honors by recently becoming one of just 10 student-athletes nationwide to be named a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, presented annually in nine different sports to the senior student-athlete who best fits the four standards of classroom, character, community and competition.
"The academic awards mean a lot to me because they're values that have come from my family," Curts said. "UC Davis is a tough institution and it's fun to take classes that I'm interested in because that's what gets me in the library to study. The awards are nice and it's an honor to get them."
"His academic success is great recognition for a young man who works so hard," added Shaffer. "He's deserving of everything he receives. I think it's great for our program because it shows that you can be a great soccer player and work extremely hard at improving yourself, and also be a great student and work just as hard in the classroom. He's very well-organized and dedicated to everything he does. He's a great person to have on the team."
The future is wide open for Curtis, with professional possibilities available in whichever field he chooses to pursue. Should he opt to continue his soccer career, many Major League Soccer teams are interested in bringing him in for a tryout prior to the January draft, according to Shaffer. Otherwise, Curtis remains committed to exploring job opportunities following his graduation in December.
Right now, the one certainty is that Curtis and the rest of the Aggies will be a force in their hunt for their first Big West Conference title and their second appearance in the NCAA Div. I postseason.
UC Davis men's soccer returns to action on Saturday with a game at UC Riverside, beginning at 6 p.m.