Coach George Kuntz’s men’s soccer squad will head into Conference play with a shutout on offense and defense.
Saturday’s match-up against San Diego State University ended in a 0-0 tie, their second tie in as many games.
‘We had played a more defensive style. We were coming off a few games where we gave up several goals, so our first priority was to not give up nearly as many,’ Kuntz said.
Prior to the game, Kuntz made the decision to start junior Anteater goalkeeper Greg Larson after freshman Pat Barton rolled his ankle earlier in the week. The decision paid off, as Larson responded with four saves in his first start of the season. It came against his former team, SDSU.
‘Greg played very well, he’s a great goal keeper; very competitive. He transfered from San Diego State so he was highly motivated to play this game,’ Kuntz said.
There is a bit of a rivalry with SDSU brewing from last season. Though the Anteaters trail the all-time series between the teams 12-5-4, UCI defeated the Aztecs in double overtime last year in a win that was expected to be a kicker for their birth to the NCAA tournament.
However, the Aztecs were awarded a spot in the tournament while UCI was snubbed.
On Sept. 23, UC Irvine tied No. 9 Brown University 2-2. Both teams played scoreless halves until the 57th minute, when Kevin Davies got Brown on the board after Nick-Elenz Martin’s assist.
Brown dropped UCI to a 2-0 deficit after Dylan Sheehan put a header in the net in the 65th minute. It was Brown’s game to win, but fortunately for the Anteaters, they gave junior Matt Murphy two opportunities too many for them to seal the win.
Four-and-a-half minutes after Sheehan’s goal, Brown committed a penalty inside the box that granted Murphy his first chance to make it a one-score game, and Murphy nailed it. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Fifteen minutes later, Brown committed its second penalty; once again, it was inside the box, and once again, it was another opportunity for Big West Player of the Week Murphy, who converted, sending the game into overtime.
Each team failed to score in both overtimes, ending the game in a 2-2 tie. Pat Barton was the goalkeeper in Monday’s contest; he recorded three saves for the ‘Eaters.
With his two goals, Murphy moved into ninth place all-time in both goals and points at UCI, with 18 and 46, respectively.
Murphy’s Big West Player of the Week award was the second of his UCI career and the first of this season.
‘Any time Matt Murphy is on the field, he’s dangerous. All we need is to have the ball by his left foot. In the past, he wasn’t a marked man; he’s done very well considering he’s being double teamed most of the time now,’ Kuntz said.
UCI heads into Big West Conference play on Wednesday on the road against No. 13 Santa Barbara. It will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.
On Saturday, the Anteaters showed they have the ability to shut-down opposing offenses. Kuntz will enter Big West play trying to find that perfect balance between aggressiveness and defense. With Murphy leading the attacks and Larson defending the net, it shouldn’t be long before they are rolling on all cylinders.