UC Irvine Finds Inspiration After Brawl to Win
Down two players in the second half, the UC Irvine Women’s Soccer team came out victorious 2-1 in a wild win on Oct. 17 at Anteater Stadium in Big West Conference play despite losing both Head Coach Marine Cano and two Irvine players due to red cards.
‘This was a big win that was just another example of the heart and soul our girls have shown all year,’ said Assistant Coach Jamie Surprenant.
The first half was completely dominated by a UCI team (8-3-4, Big West 2-1-2) that overshadowed the University of Idaho (2-8-4, 0-4-0) on both sides of the field. Irvine’s defense allowed very few opportunities for the Vandals to score, allowing only two shots by the end of the half.
On the other side of the field, Irvine had its first goal in the 17th minute from junior defender Alyson Spencer’s header off of a corner kick assisted by senior midfielder Leah Dawson and fellow senior forward Hayley McNallan.
UCI had 11 shots in the first half, including an amazing play where McNallan went solo and weaved past four Vandals to get a very close shot that drew the crowd to their feet.
Sophomore forward Kim Lloyd showed her own impressive speed and got past three defenders to get a shot off as well.
The Anteaters forced Idaho goalkeeper Lindsay Smith to work for six saves in the half and nine saves for the game. Nearing halftime, Idaho’s passion seemed to be extinguished as they kept getting beaten on the defensive end and looked lost the few times they were on the offensive.
The second half appeared to be a continuation of UCI’s command of the game, as the defense was still making it difficult for Idaho to cross midfield until the 53rd minute.
Idaho was awarded a penalty kick when a UC Irvine player was called for a handball violation while in the box. Coach Cano contested that the ball touched the hands of an Idaho player first and was given his first yellow card of the game.
Idaho forward Amanda Findlay scored on the penalty kick and tied the game 1-1.
After the goal, the Vandals regenerated their intensity and the Anteaters started to falter, not looking as focused on either defense or offense.
In the second half, Idaho had twice as many fouls as UCI (8-4). This was exemplified on a play that seemed destined for an Anteater goal when Idaho’s goalkeeper was out of position. Lloyd was clipped and no call was made.
‘It was an easy play to call, one of our girls got bladed. I told the [referees that they were being unjust,’ Cano said.
This earned Cano his second yellow card, and he was ejected from the game.
Two minutes later, the referee’s refusal to call another rough play resulted in a fight on the field.
‘I felt my girls had to protect themselves out there,’ Cano said.
However reactionary the fight was, Irvine lost both junior defender Tara Weldon and junior midfielder Julie Scheppele for pushing and punching Idaho players. Idaho only lost sophomore forward Alyson South.
With the score tied and down to nine players to Idaho’s 10, UCI came together with renewed intensity in the face of even more rough plays which were not called as anything more than a foul. With only three minutes remaining in the game, the crowd was standing and cheering, feeding off their team’s intensity as the Anteaters got 12 shots off in the second half.
UCI was vindicated with a corner kick that mirrored their first goal when once again, Spencer scored on a header with an assist from Dawson and McNallan.
In addition to the already crazy night on the field, the public address system and the scoreboard malfunctioned throughout most of the game. Anteater fans were updated periodically when the sound manager would yell out what had transpired.
After the game, the players rushed off the field for a meeting with Cano.
‘This was a costly win, I’m proud of our team but we’re going to have to regroup for Sunday,’ Cano said.
UCI next hosts Long Beach State on Sunday, Oct. 26 at Anteater Stadium.