The UCI Men’s Soccer team stood individually with their hands behind their backs while their UC Davis opponents held hands in a unified line as the lyrics ‘and the home of the brave!’ stilled the crowd minutes before their Sept. 23 night game. Before the applause could climax, the UCI team hurled small gold soccer balls into the stands at Anteater stadium.
‘Are you ready to rumble?’ echoed the announcer accompanied by a crescendo of cheers from the fans as the Anteaters kicked off their toilsome 90-minute effort which resulted in a 1-0 victory over Davis. Both teams struggled to maintain a passing sequence during the first quarter. Nevertheless, the Anteaters were able to initiate a slight amount of offensive rhythm for the rest of the half after junior forward Brad Evans nearly scored on a one-touch shot.
Evans endured a foul giving the Anteaters a free kick. Seconds later he drove the ball down field, faked out the defender with a pull back and passed to junior midfielder Brandon Tario. Shooting from the left wing, Tario’s kick was deflected by a Davis defender.
The third shot came from junior midfielder Anthony Hamilton and was deflected off the Aggies’ goalie awarding the Anteaters a corner kick. Parents, students, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, AYSO soccer players and other Anteater fans bellowed ‘Ole ole ole ole’ in anticipation. The outside half kicked the ball straight to Evans who took another one touch shot but failed again to score.
The Anteaters showed finesse in a sequence of four passes, a cross, five more passes, another cross and then a shot by freshman defender Matt Murphy. However, the Aggies goalkeeper saved it.
Davis then attempted a breakteam’s ‘just keep pushing no matter what the score is’ philosophy that Ortiz says is constantly reinforced at practices.
UC Irvine’s talented players did just that on the field. The crowd saw a stronger Anteater force as senior defender Joy Grey, freshman midfielder Alex Fries and freshman midfielder Kathleen Lemieux pushed ahead to provide enough support to launch an equally damaging attack on their opponent.
The Anteaters fought their way onto the scoreboard with sophomore defender Brittany Del Soldato heading the ball into the net off of a brilliant cross from freshman forward Lauren Curtis.
Grey and Ortiz began intercepting weak Torero passes and taking shots. UCI’s long passes and faster attacks surprised the Toreros as they struggled to regain their lead. The stadium roared as fans cheered the Anteaters on through the twilight.
‘The goal really boosted us, I thought we took over the game,’ said head coach Marine Cano.
Tension was rampant on the field as the Anteaters dominated the Toreros through the remainder of the first half. Two close corner kicks and two saves from freshman goalkeeper Erin Henry were among the game’s most exciting moments. By the end of the first half, UCI’s four fouls and USD’s six defined the competitive atmosphere.
Fog rolled in to greet the players for the second half. The Toreros maintained control of the ball for the remainder of the game. The opponent’s frequent short passes and failure to challenge them delayed progress for both teams. The tie-breaking goal was finally delivered by a header from the Toreros’ Michelle Rowe. Both sides resettled into their competitive positions and the Anteaters executed plays that involved more confrontation with the opponent’s defense. The Anteaters had three separate corner kick opportunities in the second half, but the Toreros’ goalkeeper, Brittany Cameron, and a tall energetic defense blocked UC Irvine’s efforts. ‘We never really gave up, it was just an unlucky game,’
Ortiz said. At the end of the second half, UCI’s three fouls were still less than USD’s six.
The team’s emotional losses have fueled its determination to shed its underdog reputation and shine with its new freshman talents.
The team still anticipates a great rest of the season. The Anteaters will be working on a stronger offense and minimizing small mistakes at practice to prepare for the Big West Conference. Coach Cano felt that the Anteaters had to ‘eliminate those mistakes to beat a strong team like [San Diego].’ UCI will open Big West Conference play against Cal State Northridge on Sept. 30.
Filed Under: Sports