What is happening? If you haven’t been paying attention to UC Irvine sports, you should.
We have three teams making some noise, and one hasn’t even played a regular season game yet.
First things first: The 11th-ranked UCI men’s soccer team just completed its best regular season ever. Last Saturday’s game was a reflection of the roller-coaster ride the team has endured over the last three seasons.
Matt Murphy’s goal in the 50th minute against Cal State Northridge conjured up images of UCI’s team two years ago, which was headed by Brad Evans and Anthony Hamilton. Both now play with their respective Major League Soccer teams. Murphy has been the face of UCI soccer, as he is the all-time career leader in goals and points at UCI.
CSUN’s goal in the 60th minute was a symbol of last year’s struggles. The Matadors were a man down, and still managed to score a goal and press on the Anteater defense. Last year, the Anteaters seemed to have the right pieces and the advantages, but never had things end their way. The team played in a whopping nine overtime games that season, and only managed to win two. They lacked that killer finish. However, this season is a different story.
Coach Kuntz addressed that need in the off-season when he brought in juniors Irving Garcia and Carlos Aguilar. Both players bring an offensive-mindedness to the game, and it paid off in the final minutes of Saturday’s game. Garcia and Aguilar hooked up on a stunning 87th minute clutch goal, which brought the Anteaters the title and signified the resiliency of the program.
The Anteaters now play a dirty UC Davis squad on Wednesday at home at 7 p.m. in the Big West Tournament semi-finals.
UC Davis sucks. They are actually a good team, but they play dirty. The last game at home against UC Davis saw probably 86 players get yellow cards and about 36 get ejected. Their home field is like Camerion Stadium, which is where the Duke Blue Devils basketball team plays. Like the Cameron Craziers, the Aggie fans can practically touch the athletes on the field. Ask any UCI soccer player; it is a hostile environment. So let’s give them a taste of their own medicine on Wednesday.
Another team that is rolling is the UCI women’s volleyball team. They were a team that was supposed to come in and dominate right off the bat. However, they struggled in the non-conference schedule and looked to be a bust. I was wrong. The ladies have got their act together and are currently riding a five-game winning streak. More importantly, they are now second in the Big West with a 9-3 record, just behind rival Long Beach State who is 10-2.
UCI upset 24th-ranked Long Beach State at home on Oct. 16 and has definitely shown that it can take them out again. They will get a chance to do it again this Wednesday at Long Beach State. With a win, they can tie The Beach atop the standings with two games left.
Wednesday looks like an exciting day for UCI sports.
If you can’t make it out to either game on Wednesday, make sure you keep your Saturday afternoon open. I am not kidding.
The Anteater men’s basketball team opens its regular season with a big-time match up. UCI vs. University of Southern California, Anteaters vs. Trojans. Pat Douglass vs. Tim Floyd. Atkinson vs. Taj Gibson. Darren Moore vs. DeMar DeRozen. Lil’ Romeo vs. Patrick Rembert.
While that last match-up is only enticing because Romeo is a rapper and Rembert has that celebrity look, the rest is very interesting. Coach Douglass will get to see his team-ball pass heavy style when they go up against Floyd’s high-octane, big-name offense. Atkinson and Gibson are very similar players. It will be a good test for Zack, and perhaps a vision for his future. DeRozen was one of the high-profile recruits last season, and some experts have tabbed him the preseason freshman of the year. Moore will have his hands full, but his tenacious defense should cause some problems for USC.
If last Saturday’s exhibition was any indication, the addition of Atkinson and Moore along with the improvements of the returnees makes this UCI team potentially one of the best in program history.
Get your carpools ready, and buy your tickets. We are going to the Galen Center.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. UCI also has the best female college golfer in the nation. Jane Chin is ranked number one in the Golfstat National Cup Rankings. She has a 69.92 scoring average, the top in the nation. Chin has won three consecutive tournaments. No big deal. Now she gets a few months to simmer in her success and then go at it again in the spring season.
It’s a good time to be an Anteater. Make the most of it and expect more to come.