Leer Leads UC Davis Over Denver
DAVIS, Calif. -- Junior forward Chris Leer scored two second-half goals to lead 17th-ranked UC Davis to a 4-0 win over Denver in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship at Aggie Soccer Stadium Saturday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd of 1,344.
The Aggies improve to 13-4-4 for the season. The Pioneers, champions of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, end their year at 10-7-2.
Freshman defender Lance Patterson and senior midfielder Sule Anibaba also scored goals for UC Davis, which outshot its guest by a 15-9 margin.
The Aggies cracked the seal on the scoreboard in the 25th minute when defender Dan Campbell sent in a free kick from the left flank. DU goalkeeper Joe Willis put a fist on the shot for the save, but Patterson collected the rebound and sent the ball in for the first goal of his collegiate career.
Denver had an opportunity to tie the game shortly thereafter, as freshman forward Sam Garza advanced on the Aggie cage in a 1-v-1 chance. However, Aggie sophomore Ryan McCowan smothered the attempt for one of his three saves in the contest.
The Pioneers nearly tied the game again early in the second period. Senior Joey Mathot centered a cross to teammate Jarod Stigall, who made a diving header from approximately 12 yards deep. McCowan again was there for the save, making a diving stop to prevent the potential equalizer.
Anibaba padded the UC Davis lead to two goals in the 57th minute. Campbell sent a long throw-in from near the left flag to the penalty area. DU's defenders were unable to clear the ball out, then Anibaba found the loose ball and sent a sliding shot into the low left corner of the cage.
Leer scored his first goal at the 64:40 mark. His first attempt to advance on the cage was foiled by Pioneer defender Kris Banghart. But junior Paul Marcoux recovered the ball for UC Davis and crossed it back to Leer, who lobbed a bicycle kick over the head of Banghart. Leer's shot landed just inside the left post fo the Aggies' third goal.
Leer hit his second goal with 5:53 remaining in the game, taking a pass from midfielder Rene Cuellar then finishing his 1-v-1 transition opportunity.
This is the second consecutive year that UC Davis has advanced to the NCAA postseason, and the first time in school history that an NCAA men's soccer playoff game has taken place on campus.
UC Davis will face Michigan in the second-round contest in Ann Arbor on Tuesday at 11 a.m. PT.
UC Davis Head Coach Dwayne Shaffer
On Winning First NCAA Division I Tournament Game
"It's awesome. I'm happy. I thought my team played outstanding from the beginning of the game all the way through to the end. I thought our starters set the tone and several of our reserves cam in and made us better. We were able to put a lot of pressure on Denver throughout the game and score four goals."
Feelings on Winning
"I actually feel really happy for our team and our student-athletes. We weren't playing to our best towards the end of the season. I think earning a berth into the tournament and having a home game really took the pressure off their shoulders and I'm just extremely happy for my team. They'll go down in UC Davis history as the team that won the first home NCAA Division I playoff game. They deserve all the credit."
Sule Anibaba, UC Davis forward
On the game
"It was great to be home in front of our fans. We didn't like the feeling we had last year after losing to Cal in the first round and we didn't want that to happen again. It was going to be my last game and our other seniors' last game at home and we just wanted to come out, play hard and do whatever it takes to get the win. I'm glad we were able to win."
Denver Head Coach Bobby Muss
On the game
"I think Davis did a good job of imposing their game on us. Score-wise, I didn't think it was a fare result of the game. But it is what it is. They buried their chances and we didn't do a good job of getting behind them and creating our own chances. I just think they (UC Davis) was just more athletic that we were. But I thought we settled down a little bit after halftime. The second goal was a dagger. They took their chances well. They finished their chances. "