Kate Berrini is making big things happen on the front line of the UC Irvine women’s soccer team. We are talking hat-trick-big, assists-big and game-winning-goals-big.
Berrini is a third-year striker for the Anteaters, and lets her offsensive skills do all the talking. In a win against Weber State University a few weeks ago, Berrini had a hat-trick and scored one of the best goals of the season.
From 30 yards out, Berrini stood over a free kick with her team down by one in the final 15 minutes of the game. She lined up the kick, cracked a knuckler that went upper-V and never gave the keeper a chance. After scoring another goal to tie it up 10 minutes later, Berrini scored, then scored the game winner in the 88th minute. She is clutch.
Berrini has become a powerhouse of offensive options for the Anteaters this season and is not anticipating that anything will slow her down in the near future. Berrini has been a major factor in the Anteaters’ solid 7-6 start with four goals and two assists on the season.
But there is another element to Berrini’s game that does not show up in the stat book. Berrini is a player that will get stuck in at any time and put opponents on their heels before they even realize what hit them.
Berrini played center mid-field her first two years in the program and has brought that physically tough mentality to the striker position. Her 5-foot-9-inch athletic build has brought a different dimension to the team’s offensive attack.
“I try to set the tempo of the game and come out as hard as I can,” Berrini said. “For the first three tackles, I just try to go in really hard and spark the team. I want to be that person that gets [us] to start playing hard.”
Berrini has sparked the team to win important games against some very big opponents. The Anteaters have beat teams like Southern Utah, Weber State and UC Davis. They have struggled to finish at times and two of their losses have come in double overtime to San Diego and St. Mary’s. The team fights hard, win or lose, and Berrini is at the forefront of that charge.
However, Berrini is quick to mention how she has had some major help from her counterpart, striker Tanya Taylor. Even with the early season success of Berrini, teams are still putting more defensive pressure on the very skilled Taylor, thus giving Berrini some freedom up top to make plays. Unlike her first two years in the program at mid-field, Berrini feels like she is more free to make different types of runs that she previously would not have been able to make.
“I felt trapped at center mid last year [because] I couldn’t make certain runs,” Berrini said. “But this year I feel like I can go have fun and chase down random balls. I get to have a lot more creativity, which I like.”
That newfound creativity and appreciation for the fun of soccer has been a huge key to her success thus far this season. Berrini has made it a point to not take the game too seriously and just try to enjoy it while she can.
For many athletes in college, training every day and keeping a full-time school schedule can often make it feel like a job. Berrini has kept that negative energy at bay.
This season and last season have proven to be such a turnaround from Berrini’s first year in the program that it would be impossible for her not to have fun on the field. Her first season with the team, they went 5-12-2 with only one win in league play. Last year, only one game stood in the way of first place and this season is heading in the same direction.
Berrini chalks most of that success up to second-year Head Coach Scott Juniper. He has provided a stern force for the team and has set the tone for players.
The program’s turnaround under Juniper has not come as much of a surprise to Berrini, but is still something she appreciates and she strives to contribute.
“I couldn’t imagine ever playing and losing like that ever again,” Berrini said of her first year. “I am so happy it has turned around. I just can’t lose like that. It is awful. I like now that when we lose, it is not acceptable.”
That type of attitude from Berrini is exactly why the team is in the hunt for a Big West Championship and a berth in the NCAA championships.
But for Berrini, it is still early in the season and in her career. She has one more year of soccer at UCI after this season and is still weighing her options for post-college plans. She mentioned possibly playing in the Women’s United Soccer Association when it starts in 2009 or continuing her education on a graduate level.
However, none of that matters at the moment. Berrini and her team have five more games before the Big West Championships, and in no way is she planning on slowing down.
Sunday Result: UCI 0, Long Beach State 0
The UCI women’s soccer team played to a scoreless draw against black-and-blue rival Long Beach State at George Allen field.
UCI is now 7-6-1 and 1-1-1 in Big West play.
The player of the match was UCI freshman keeper Erica Quevedo, who recorded a whopping 14 saves on the match.
The Anteaters could only muster up three shots on goal against Long Beach State keeper Liz Ramos.
Despite the lack of offense, head coach Scott Juniper was proud of his defensive effort.
“I am very proud of the effort the team played with today. We had several players that were unable to practice this week due to illness and to have them come out here today and play the way they did is very gratifying. Erica Quevedo played great in the net coming up with big plays all game long. I thought our back four and midfield played great especially Nikki Forrest, who has shown maturity and continues to improve,” said head coach Scott Juniper.
Next Game: UCI hosts Cal State Fullerton Wednesday at 7 p.m.