DAVIS, Calif. -- Matt Sheldon's 27th-minute strike proved to be the early game-winner while Ian Palmer added an insurance strike late in the second half Wednesday afternoon, lifting host UC Davis to a 2-0 victory over Cal State Fullerton in a 2012 Big West Conference Tournament semifinal match-up at the Aggie Soccer Field.
The loss ended the Titans' season at 8-12-1 overall and 4-5-1 in Big West play while the North Division champion Aggies improved to 10-6-4 overall and advanced to face South Division champion Cal State Northridge in Saturday's championship match after the Matadors shut out Cal Poly, 2-0.
"I'd like to congratulate UC Davis for moving on to the championship game," Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "I'm disappointed for my team and especially the seniors. We've played our best soccer these later stages of the season and deserved to be in the semi-finals. The 2-0 score is not indicative of the game or of the team's performance."
Saturday's championship will be held at UC Davis at 1 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
The Titans had two golden chances in the opening period to strike first, but a one-touch by Anthony Rosales in the 17th minute off a deflection by the Davis defense was snuffed at the lower right corner and Mario Alvarez had a shot in the 27th minute deflect off the crossbar to keep Fullerton off the board.
That set up Sheldon's third goal of the season which came on a header to the upper right corner as he got behind the defense and connected on a floating cross by Eric Budniewski giving the Aggies a 1-0 lead at the break.
"Their first goal came against the run of play and stunned us a bit but our response was immediate," Ammann said. "Mario's shot seconds later had everyone beat but the crossbar."
In the second half, the Titans turned up the heat offensively, taking 11 of their 18 shots after the break to try and craft a comeback. Fullerton took the first four shots of the second period, including back-to-back attempts by Gerzon Blanco and Ian Ramos that were blocked away by the Aggies defense, and later had another attempt denied from close-in as Jameson Campbell had his header at the left post snatched out of the air by a leaping Omar Zeenni to preserve the shutout.
Jesse Escalante then had a chance go just wide on a header off a cross by Rosales in the 76th minute and had another shot go wide on a bicycle kick before the Aggies struck for a second goal.
Palmer netted his first career goal in the 83rd minute as Matt Wisenfarth took the ball in the middle and found Palmer on the left, who sent a shot back across the goal for the final tally.
"We had Davis pinned in and played in our attacking half for most of the second half," Ammann said. "We eventually went with three in the back to push another up top with 12 minutes left searching for the equalizer. This left us vulnerable and ultimately the reason we conceded the second."
The Titans outshot the Aggies, 18-11, and had seven corners to Davis' five for the match, but Fullerton put just two of its shots on frame. Jesse Escalante finished with a match-high four shots on the day while Alex Aguiar led the Aggies with three for the match.