The UC Irvine Men’s Soccer team has played some real tough and physical matchups these last weeks and has found ways to get the win in its last five games. They have beaten teams by blowing them out, coming from behind and clinching the win in the last minutes of the game. The Anteaters have met the Big West Conference at the point of attack and are winning the battle.
UCI 2, Cal Poly 1
The Anteaters secured their tenth win of the season and third straight conference win on Wednesday, Oct 21, by coming from behind against second ranked Big West Conference foe, Cal Poly San Louis Obispo. They defeated the Mustangs 2-1 in front of 272 Irvine faithful at Anteater Stadium.
The first half was filled with very few offensive chances for both teams, which was a testament to the great defense and goalie play by both sides. The Mustangs broke through first when Jacob Hustedt took a free kick from the right side of the field and put the ball inside the box where teammate Patrick Sigler put a header inside the goal. The goal was scored in the 26th minute and was the only score of the first half.
The Anteaters were given a golden opportunity at the start of the second half, when Sigler fouled junior Anteater, Spencer Thompson, inside the box. This resulted in a penalty shot for UCI, which was taken by red-hot Irving Garcia. Garcia was denied by a lunging save from Mustang goalie, Patrick McLain, who made a few outstanding saves on the night. Instead of being down about the failed chance, the Anteaters kept up the pressure. After a poor play by the Mustang defense gave senior Carlos Aguilar the ball in front of the box, Aguilar blasted a shot that was deflected off a Mustang defender and just out of the reach of McLain and wound up at the back of the net in the 59th minute.
The game went back and forth after this, with each side turning up the pressure on the other. In the 72nd minute, Aguilar passed the ball from the right side of almost midfield to an open Amani Walker, who had nothing but the Mustang goal in front of him. The pass sailed just out of Amani’s reach, but senior Kevin Santora was backing up the play and quickly fired a shot that gave Irvine the 2-1 lead. UCI stopped some late pressure by the Mustangs to preserve the 2-1 lead.
After the game Aguilar was extremely happy by the effort put forth by his teammates.
“It felt good to win this game, down 1-0 at home,” Aguilar said. “The goal that I scored helped change the momentum for us. The win definitely motivates us and shows the character of this team and that we never want to be down. We never panicked and got the two goals in the second half and got the win.”
Kevin Santora was also in great spirits after the hard fought contest.
“Obviously it’s a big win not for our confidence, but for our standing in the Big West Conference,” Santora said.
Coach George Kuntz was also excited with the outcome.
“Every game has been like this because every team has taken a shot at us because of last year,” Kuntz said. “It is important for our team to be resilient and be able to come back from being a goal down.”
UCI 2, UC Davis 1
The good times kept rolling for the Anteaters as they avenged an earlier season loss against UC Davis by beating the Aggies on the road 2-1 on Oct. 24. UC Irvine trailed the Aggies 1-0 in the first half until Amani Walker headed in a free kick by Irving Garcia at the 33rd minute mark. They then took the lead late in the game when freshman Zach Olow hit the game winner inside the left post in the 80th minute.
UCI next plays Cal State Fullerton on Oct 28 in Fullerton.
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