The Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, picked to finish last in their conference this preseason, will open their first Big West Men’s Soccer Championship at home Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against the UC Davis Aggies.
After a 1-5-1 start to the season, CSUB went 5-4 in conference play to lock up the fourth seed in the Big West playoffs and face the No. 5 Aggies. The match comes two weeks to the day after the teams met at the Main Soccer Field Oct. 20, when Tom Shepherd’s golden goal in the second period of overtime secured a 2-1 victory for CSUB.
It was Shepherd’s second goal of the game, after the Aggies’ Grant Fidler, a Bakersfield native, had equalized in the first half. The Roadrunners held a two-point advantage over UC Davis, 4-4-1 in conference, at season’s end; if Shepherd hadn’t found the back of the net, this match would be taking place at the Aggie Soccer Field.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will face No. 1 UC Santa Barbara, which dominated its conference schedule with three-goal wins over both teams, although the Gauchos did lose their season finale at CSUN.
In its last tournament appearance, CSUB was in the WAC in 2019 and beat San Jose State before losing to Seattle. UC Davis actually won the Big West tournament that year with a 2-0 victory over UCSB before falling to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.
Most recently, CSUB lost 2-0 to Cal Poly Saturday. The Aggies have more momentum entering the playoffs this year, having defeated Sacramento State 2-1 behind goals from Kaleb Schirmacher and Robert Mejia. Its leading scorers on the season are Maximilian Arfsten with seven goals and Fidler with six. Arfsten and Mejia have six assists each, tied for first in the conference. It’ll be up to the Roadrunners’ veteran back line and freshman goalkeeper Scott Pengelly to shut them down Wednesday.
The Roadrunners haven’t been quite as prolific on the year and are led by Aodhán O’Hara with five goals and Niklas Roessler with four assists. Shepherd has only scored one other goal the rest of the year besides his brace in the previous match against the Aggies.
The game will be played at the Main Soccer Field and televised on ESPN+.