The UC Irvine Women’s soccer team (1-7-1) returned home after traveling to the Midwest for nonconference games against Kansas and Nebraska. On Friday, Sept. 23 the Anteaters suffered their fourth consecutive loss after a turbulent game with the University of San Diego Toreros (3-5) at Anteater Stadium. The game was anything but predictable, as the Anteaters failed to recover from the 20th ranked team’s lead, losing the match 2-1.
A strong Anteater offense led by senior forward Lauren Baer, junior forward Lauryn Birkinshaw and freshman forward Megan Ortiz pushed the ball up throughout the first half. USD’s Michelle Rowe challenged the Anteaters by scoring an early-unassisted goal soon after the game began.
UCI’s immediate response on the field can be attributed to the away, but junior defender Cameron Dunn was able to slide tackle the attacking player and kick the ball out of the UCI’s goal box before the danger surmounted. ‘He’s a pro level defender,’ said Head Coach George Kuntz.
‘We had good control. We kept it tight defensively,’ said senior goalkeeper Ryan Mathy after the shutout. Mathy only had three saves in the match.
By the second half, the match was still scoreless and UCI dominating in shots.
The second half began with Davis making three passes and then turning the ball over. The game began to get more vicious when freshman midfielder Rafael Macedo withstood a hard foul. Evans took the free kick from outside the box, but over shot the goal.
The physical intensity increased when junior Craig Ettinger plunged forward to get the ball and was nearly kicked in the face by the Aggies’ goalie. Sophomore defender Brandon Foster sacrificed his body by getting kicked in the head with the ball and then immediately bounced back to prevent UCD from completing a pass.
After winning a corner kick, junior midfielder Doug Franco was able to lob the cross into the upper corner of the goal to give UCI a 1-0 lead. ‘We’ve been struggling but it’s good to get a win,’ Franco said. ‘It gives us some confidence going into conference.’
With thirty six minutes left in the game all participants were apprehensive about which team would win. A group of AYSO soccer girls started chanting, ‘UCI! UCI!’ One side of the crowd started a wave, but it didn’t make it to the end of the stands because of the thin crowd on that side.
‘Clear it out,’ one UCD defender screamed, vocalizing his team’s nervousness as the game restarted. In the haste of being down a point the Aggies stepped up their game and made several runs down the field. Yet these chances resulted in unsuccessful shots on goal.
On a corner kick against UCI, sophomore defender Stever Ruiz managed to back-head the ball to Hamilton who dribbled down field and faked out a defender, but overshot. Hamilton had three shot attempts during the game, the most of any player.
In the last minute the Aggies made a substitution. After throwing the ball in, UCD lost it to UCI’s defense which cleared it to the front just in time for the final whistle to blow.
‘We’re happy to be in the win column,’ Kuntz said. ‘These guys have worked incredibly hard. We’re as fit, or fitter, than any team. We used our athleticism to get in behind their defense to get more shooting opportunities.’