Cal Poly 0
UC Irvine 1
At this time two years ago, the UCI men’s soccer team began conference play with a record of 4-5 going on to an overall record of 7-13-0. At the end of the 2004 season, few would have predicted that a mere two years later, UC Irvine would be experiencing one of the best seasons in school history. With a win Saturday night against Cal Poly, the Anteaters improved their record to 8-1-1, and 3-0 in Big West play.
Shutting out the Mustangs 1-0, Irvine’s lone goal came in the first half at the 28 minute, 33 second mark on senior Brad Evan’s header off a corner kick by sophomore Matt Murphy.
The Anteaters preserved their shutout with stellar defense that rarely allowed the ball to get to senior goalkeeper Kenny Schoeni.
Although the second half wa devoid of any scoring, the excitement levels rose as Irvine searched for a second goal to put the game out of reach. Irvine came out firing, registering six of their 10 shots in the second half. Cal Poly goalkeeper Eric Branagan-Franco tabbed four of his five saves in the second half, frustrating the Anteaters’ offense.
‘A victory is always good,’ Evans said. ‘Although our offense could have been better.’
The offense relentlessly attacked the Cal Poly defense and gained 10 corner-kick chances. Evans had three shots on goal while senior Anthony Hamilton and Murphy each had one opportunity.
The shutout by the Anteaters, however, was the upside to a night in which the Irvine offense scored only one goal. Schoeni tallied his fifth shutout of the season with one save on Cal Poly’s only shot on goal.
‘They worked hard in a close game,’ said Head Coach George Kuntz. ‘I’m proud of these guys for the shutout.’ As Kuntz explained, being able to prevent any opponent in a conference game from scoring is a notable feat in itself. Playing in their third conference game of the season, the match against the Mustangs reinforced that conference play is very different from preseason games.
‘Although all games count, [conference games are] more of a battlefield,’ Evans said. ‘It’s a different mind set