With both UC Irvine and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s women’s soccer teams going into the Friday night match in Anteater Stadium undefeated, the game was to decide who would claim the no. 1 spot in conference. After a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, the Mustangs emerged victorious after a header in the second minute of overtime, bringing the ’Eaters to a 2-1 record in Big West play.
Though the Anteaters controlled possession more than the visiting Mustangs of Cal Poly, the score remained a 0-0 tie at halftime. However, the abundance of Anteater fans in the stands remained supportive and hopeful.
A strike to the back of the net by junior forward Natalia Ledezma finally put the home side on the board in the 56th minute, bringing her goal count in the season to three.
But a last second goal by the Mustangs, with two minutes left, put a halt to any hopes the Anteaters had of blanking their opponent.
A tipped in goal to the high right corner by a Mustang forward in the 87th minute took the breath out of the UCI team and crowd. And since this was league play, there had to be a clear winner — no ties.
The game went into overtime. NCAA rules require overtime to be played for the golden goal; whichever team scores first wins the match, and in this game that rule would eventually hurt the ’Eaters. Tension remained high in those last minutes, and shock and frustration could be seen in loyal Anteater fans.
Two minutes into overtime, a foul committed by the Anteaters just a few yards away from the box allowed the Cal Poly women’s team to get the golden goal and uphold their undefeated record in league play. As for UCI, the game marked their first loss for a 2-1 record.
“We played very well as a team,” said senior center back Rachel Wood. “We really tried to follow the principles we learned.”
The mighty women’s soccer team had already come out victorious in their games against Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside, but Cal Poly also had both wins in the conference as well, making this a tough battle for the Anteaters.
“It’s hard when you are up the whole game and you have the win taken out of your hands; this is where we are challenged with adversity and our mental toughness has to come in,” said Woods. “We executed our plan and unfortunately we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”
Despite the loss, the outcome does appear to be a major setback for the ’Eaters. They have played very well and Anteater fans should have faith that that will continue. Even the players have confidence that this loss will not bring them down.
“We have a very good chance to win the conference,” said Wood proudly.
Despite their loss, it is evident that Head Coach Scott Juniper is doing something right.
“I thought we did great, we did everything right, but we conceded two shots on goal and they both went in,” said Head Coach Juniper. “Yet, this team is a resilient one.”
It seems these ’Eaters have the right attitude. This and their team’s determination will take them to the top once again.
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