Senior midfielder Caroline Kabe and senior forward Hayley McNallan scored in their final home game as the UC Irvine Women’s Soccer team (9-3-5, Big West 3-1-3) defeated Long Beach State 3-2 on Oct. 28 in overtime in a Big West Conference match.
It was senior day at Anteater Stadium, as the seniors would take part in their final home game. Kabe, McNallan, midfielder Leah Dawson and defender Melody Mangrello were escorted by their parents onto the field as they greeted the crowd with flowers and balloons.
The Anteaters came out fired up even before the opening whistle, yelling, jumping and intimidating a less amplified Long Beach State crowd. They took it to the 49ers, putting up 10 shots in the first half to their four.
UCI’s dominance would finally show its presence on the scoreboard in the 29th minute when Kabe took a pass from sophomore forward Kim Lloyd and buried it in the far corner of the net to put the Anteaters up 1-0.
Kabe was ecstatic to score in her final home game as an Anteater, and ran clear across the field and up to the sidelines to hug suspended teammates Tara Weldon and Julie Scheppele.
Freshman forward Lauren Birkenshaw took a McNallan cross and nearly put it past the 49er goalkeeper Meghan Hartwyk with her chest, but the team would go to their respective sidelines at halftime with a 1-0 Anteater lead.
The frustrated 49ers began playing more physical soccer in the second half to compensate for the Anteaters’ complete control of the game in the first. A minor scuffle occurred in front of the LB State sideline, reminiscent of the fight that occurred 11 days prior, but was controlled by the referee right away.
UCI would not be knocked off kilter by the 49ers rough play, and doubled their lead when McNallan received a pass from freshman midfielder Britney Webster. McNallan gave the ball a touch, and buried it in the left corner from 16 yards out. 2-0 UCI, and the two offensive-oriented seniors scored both of the goals.
Assistant Coach Jamie Suprenant thought, ‘It was great to have [Kabe and McNallan] score in their last home game. They have both put in four years of hard work here, and their hard work has paid off.’
The 49ers would begin to fight back in the final half-hour of the game. Freshman goalkeeper Marissa Welliver would come up with big saves in the 67th and 74th minutes, turning down seemingly sure goals by Long Beach State.
Dawson played a spectacular game defensively, stopping two shots in one play with sliding tackles.
Welliver and Dawson’s efforts was not enough to contain the suddenly threatening 49ers, LB State’s junior forward Allison Wiegand headed in a free kick in the 83rd minute to bring the score back to 2-1.
49er Shanna Wender then found a hole in the Irvine defense and sent a pass to junior forward Kristen Travis, who took a few touches and bent a shot around the diving Welliver to level the game in the 87th minute.
But the Anteaters would not put their heads down. McNallan nearly capitalized on a free kick, and also on a diving header in the final three minutes, but to no avail.
The Anteaters would head to their eighth overtime game of the year, tying their 1994 record for overtime games. The final push by the Anteaters in the last few minutes of regulation turned out to be imperative, as they carried that momentum into the first overtime period.
Just a minute and 22 seconds into overtime, Lloyd took a shot that required a diving save from the keeper. The ball bounced right into the middle of the penalty box. Lauren Birkenshaw would get there first, and finish the game with a left footed blast.
‘This win definitely puts us in the mix for a Big West tournament berth. We have to win our final two games, but our chances seem high after tonight,’ Suprenant said.
The win had its emotional aspects as well, and was quite a way for the seniors to end their careers at Anteater Stadium. Coach Cano believes both Kabe and McNallan can play professionally after their careers at UCI are completed. McNallan says she would want to try and play professionally in Europe, preferably Italy.
‘Coach thinks I can, and has connections over there,’ McNallan said.