Anteaters Shutout UCR, Tie Drake
UC Irvine men’s soccer opened up conference play on Wednesday, Sept. 29 against the Highlanders of UC Riverside. The Anteaters earned their first conference victory, as they defeated the Highlanders 3-0.
“I’m happy with the way we finished but it could have been more,” Head Coach George Kuntz said. “I was really happy with the shutout and the first win in league.”
The ’Eaters were able to dominate the game, displaying their usual tenacious defense and overwhelming offense that propelled them to a 7-1 record in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Junior midfielder Miguel Ibarra used his speed and footwork to put pressure on the Highlanders throughout the night. But it was not until early in the second half that the Anteaters were able to capitalize on Ibarra’s playmaking ability.
After a first half that saw the ’Eaters squander opportunity after opportunity, the team came out firing in the second half.
In the 47th minute, Ibarra streaked down the center of the pitch and managed to get the ball to senior forward Amani Walker. After fending off a couple of defenders, Walker found some breathing room and shot the ball just inside the left post for the first Anteater goal.
“Miguel [Ibarra] did a good job dribbling the ball and taking on defenders,” Walker said. “I just put myself in a position where I could get the ball off the back line. I took a touch outside, played it across, it hit the post and I was lucky that it went in.”
In the 63rd minute, the ’Eaters continued to put their foot on the accelerator. Ibarra would once again flash his play-making abilities by finding a wide-open Gray Bailey inside the penalty box. Bailey finished the play by tapping the ball past the keeper.
A minute later, senior forward Spencer Thompson found Christian Hernandez, who made one move to get past UCR’s goalkeeper, netting the third goal in the contest.
The ’Eaters made the Highlanders’ defense work. In the 90 minutes, the Anteaters totaled 18 shots, nine of which were on goal and six corner kicks. As good as the UCI’s offense played in the second half of the contest, their defense brought an intensity that went unmatched. UC Irvine’s back four defenders, Jimmy Turner, Joel Bagby, Corey Attaway and Everett Pitts limited Riverside’s chances to put a goal inside the net. The Highlanders recorded a total of four shots, two of which were on goal but were no serious threat to get past UCI’s Andrew Fontein.
“Our defense is holding strong. With [Joel Babgy] and [Everett Pitts] in the back, we have two big guys teams have to get through,” Walker said. “Corey [Attaway] is dynamic and Jimmy [Turner] is very strong.”
These four players and junior keeper Andrew Fontein have proved to be an invaluable asset to the Anteaters this season. In the eight games won by the ’Eaters, the opposition has been held scoreless.
“I have been a tough guy with the players defensively,” Kuntz said. “If they are not getting things done on the defensive side, they come off.”
Equally as impressive has been the ’Eater attack. In the last three games, the Anteaters have outscored their opponents 11-0. This offensive explosion has not been because one or two players have been shouldering the load, but rather it has been a team effort. An impressive 11 players have accounted for 24 goals scored by the Anteaters this season.
UC Irvine 1 Drake 1
UC Irvine entered last Saturday’s game riding a three-game winning streak, having won eight of their first nine games. In the last 270 minutes, the Anteaters did not allow a single goal, recording three straight shutouts.
On Saturday, Andrew Fontein and the back four defenders proved that they are, indeed, human, as Drake University broke the ’Eaters’ defensive streak at a 1-1 stalemate.
After a scoreless first half of soccer, the Anteaters finally got on the board in the 55th minute when senior defender Gary Bailey headed in a pass from teammate Christian Hernandez. Three minutes later, Drake’s Thomas Ostrander was able to put the equalizer past the UCI keeper, Andrew Fontein.
Despite going to double-overtime, neither team was able to break the 1-1 tie. The Anteaters dominated on the offensive end but were unable to come out with a win.
UCI out-shot Drake, 20 to 10. The Anteaters fired five shots in the two overtimes to the Bulldogs’ one. The ’Eaters recorded 10 corner kicks while holding Drake to three.
Andrew Fontein notched four saves. Meanwhile, Amani Walker and the rest of UCI’s offense made Drake’s keeper, Jordan Kadlec, work; he needed to tally nine saves in order to preserve the tie.
The Anteaters travel to Davis on, Oct. 6 to take on the Aggies and then return home on Oct. 9 to play the Mustangs of Cal Poly.