In a hard fought game against the UC Riverside Highlanders, the UC Irvine Men’s Soccer team prevailed with a final score of 3-2, ending their opening Big West Conference match with a victory. The win against Riverside extends the Anteaters’ winning streak to three.
UCI took the early lead when junior forward Brad Evans scored six minutes into the game. The rest of the contest was an ongoing battle between the two teams for the lead. A pass from junior midfielders Brandon Tario and Anthony Hamilton assisted Evans.
UC Riverside responded to UCI’s opening goal with freshman defender Joel Crompton scoring for the Highlanders less than five minutes after UCI.
After Evans’ goal, the Highlanders drastically tried to even the score. Shot after shot was taken at senior goalkeeper Ryan Mathy, but luckily junior defender Cameron Dunn was there to back him up. While Mathy was down from a previous shot, Dunn swooped in to stop a ball that was rolling towards the goal.
Big plays like Dunn’s save and several shots against Riverside kept the crowd electrified as each team continued their efforts in taking the lead.
After the first 45 minutes of play, both teams were tied at one.
‘We kind of let it slip away a little bit in the first half,’ Hamilton said. ‘After we got the goal scored on us we dropped off, so we knew we had to come back and connect passes.’
Suiting words to actions in the second half of the game, UCI broke the scoreless streak when Hamilton scored from roughly 15 yards out on a goal assisted by senior midfielder Kit Vigilanto.
However, Riverside would not let the Anteaters be content with its one goal lead, coming back with a goal by senior forward Randy Poggio. The goal came off a corner kick about seven minutes after Hamilton’s goal, bringing the score back to a 2-2 tie.
Game play progressed as each team tried to assert dominance over the other, resulting in a lot of aerial play by Riverside and some big headers, especially by UCI’s Dunn.
‘We have to play the entire game as if we were down a goal and make sure we don’t give up any sloppy goals,’ Dunn said.
The rest of the defenders and goalkeeper Ryan Mathy did just that, stopping the Highlander’s offensive plays in the second half, allowing UCI to break the tie.
The tie-breaking goal arrived within the last 15 minutes of the game by UCI freshman defender Matt Murphy, who scored unassisted from a free kick. Murphy managed to squeeze the ball by the Highlander wall and into the lower right hand corner of the goal. Murphy’s goal was an impressive display of his power as his shot was from about 30 yards deep.
UCI hung on to their 3-2 lead for the rest of the game, although the Highlanders made several attempts to even up the score. Each attempt was stopped by the Anteaters’ defense resulting in UCI’s third win in a row.
Head Coach George Kuntz is confident that the problems highlighted by the two goals that UCR did score can be addressed by the next game.
‘They can be fixed pretty easy,’ Kuntz said,
‘They weren’t goals where somebody beat us. One was a corner and one was a free kick.’
Both goals were scored from set positions, which can be prevented in future games. Practices against such things will prepare UCI for its next game against Cal Poly on Wednesday, Oct. 5.