The only score visiting Chico State would need Sunday was Matt Hurlow’s 19th-minute goal as the Wildcats held off host UC Davis for a 1-0 exhibition victory at Aggie Soccer Field.
“I thought the team played well; I thought we played hard,” head coach Dwayne Shaffer said. “I thought a lot of our freshmen added a lot to the match. I thought Dashiell MacNamara was outstanding. However, the game of soccer is won and lost by scoring goals and possession doesn’t score you points.
“We’ve got to become way more aggressive going at the goal and we’ve got to start scoring goals. We possess it, we move it, we look good, but it’s got to be effective now,” he continued. “I’m going to continue to dig deep until I find the right combination of players who will start putting it in the back of the net.”
The teams played to a stalemate through the first 10 minutes of the match until back-to-back shots by Chico State finally got things moving. Akwafei Ajeakwa missed high in the 10th minute and Justin Saul’s shot from the top of the box less than a minute later was smothered by Aggies’ keeper Kris Schultz.
Schultz made another nice save in the 17th minute, pushing wide a shot from a sharp angle on the left side that would have gone for naught had it found the back of the net due to offsides, but the Wildcats eventually cashed in the lone goal of the contest at the 18:22 mark.
Ajeakwa’s throw-in from the left side sailed over the heads of the UCD back line and onto the feet of a sprinting Hurlow, who dribbled in and threaded a shot past Schultz into the lower left corner for the 1-0 advantage.
“(Chico State) had some decent chances; the mistakes we made on the goal they scored are easily correctable,” Shaffer said. “They take a long throw-in and we just weren’t quite ready for that. However, I just expect way more. I expect my seniors to be better leaders. I expect way more pressure on an opposing defense.”
Four of UCD’s five shots in the period came after the Chico State score, including a strike by Ryan Gross and a header by Brian Ford that were turned away by goalkeeper Luke Dennison. The Aggies had another golden chance in the final minute of the half as sophomore Dashiell MacNamara’s cross was headed for the feet of freshman Kyle Higgins at close range, but was intercepted by the defense and cleared away from danger.
The Aggies held a 13-6 advantage in the shot column for the match — including an 8-2 lead in the second half — but could not break through against the Chico State defense, putting only four of their 13 shots on frame.
Three of their best chances came in the final six minutes of regulation as UCD pressed for the equalizer. The first came with 5:56 to play as Andre Brown played a ball into the middle of the box where MacNamara tried to body it past the Wildcats’ defense, but goalkeeper Andrew Matthews split a pair of Aggies to knock the ball away.
Another ball by MacNamara slotted for senior Matt Wiesenfarth also was turned away by Matthews and some last-second magic off a corner kick by freshman Miguel Acevedo almost forged a draw as Gross’ volley from 10 yards was cleared off the line at the right post by a Chico State defender to preserve the win.
Gross led all players with a match-high three shots for the Aggies while freshman Evan Barrett and junior Eddie Manella had two apiece. In all, nine different UCD players had shots on the day. Hurlow finished with two shots to pace the Wildcats.
The 2014 regular season officially opens this weekend as the Aggies head to Columbus, Ohio, for the ninth annual Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic hosted by Ohio State. UCD meets the host Buckeyes on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., before meeting Canisius College on Sunday at 9 a.m. to close out the event.