Men’s Soccer Bounces Back
On Wednesday, Nov. 3, the No. 7 Anteaters suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss to Cal State Northridge, giving UCI its first blemish in Big West play (6-1-2).
“We had a very low level of energy,” Head Coach George Kuntz said. “The level of effort is inexcusable for our team and we expect a much higher standard, much higher quality [and] much better execution.”
It was a difficult night for the Anteaters to establish their “first-to-the-ball” mindset, as the Matadors swarmed to the ball and ended most of the Anteaters’ chances to score. Anxiety filled the air as both teams failed to capitalize on their early opportunities. That was until the 34th minute when sophomore midfielder Zach Olow confounded CSUN’s goalkeeper and headed in a goal, putting the ’Eaters up 1-0.
UCI led the game in the first half until the 58th minute, when CSUN scored the equalizing goal.
“I thought we did not play up to our potential,” Olow said. “We just didn’t come out with that fire and desire that we have every game [and] I thought we played a little flat.”
The Anteaters out-shot the Matadors 15 to 9 and totaled three more corner kicks than CSUN, but that was not enough for UCI to come out on top.
“We gave them a little too much time with their passing,” Olow said. “Our pressure was just lacking and it comes from the defense all the way up to the forwards.”
As the second half came to a close, the 1-1 stalemate looked as if it would continue to overtime, but that would not be the case. In the 90th minute, CSUN’s Mattias Bonvehi received the ball on a corner kick and put it past UCI’s Andrew Fontein for the game-winning goal.
“We have been working on defending corners,” Kuntz said. “They scored on a corner last game and we gave up [a corner] so that is very disappointing. I guarantee that we will work on that this week and we are going to try to make it better.”
The Anteaters were without their second leading scorer, Spencer Thompson, who has proved to be an invaluable asset to the team.
“We found out an hour and a half before the game that Spencer Thompson could not play and he has been a very dangerous player for us. It changed some of the dynamics for us within the team. He could not go unfortunately,” Kuntz said.
In a game lacking full effort and focus from the Anteaters, UCI may have overlooked the Matadors, who are having a poor season. Fontein, who has been impeccable this season, recorded five saves but allowed the two crucial goals in the second half.
Before the game began, UCI recognized its seven seniors in its annual Senior Day ceremony: Corey Attaway, Joel Bagby, Gray Bailey, Zlatan Kukovic, Jorge Reyes, Spencer Thompson and Amani Walker.
UC Irvine 3 CSUF 1
After dropping Wednesday night’s game, the ’Eaters needed to win if they wanted to secure the top spot in the Big West Tournament.
The Anteaters took care of business, defeating Fullerton, 3-1 on Saturday, Nov. 6.
The Titans put a scare into the hearts of the Anteaters after Fullerton scored in the 26th minute on a penalty kick. But the Anteaters responded to the Titans’ first goal by tightening their defense and turning up the intensity on offense.
Senior Joel Bagby countered the Titans’ first goal by tying the game in the 43rd minute. Freshman Carlos Santana stepped into the spotlight by putting the go-ahead goal past the Titans’ keeper in the 49th minute. In the 71st, Senior Amani Walker added the third Anteater goal. Walker’s goal not only secured a win against Fullerton but also clinched the top seed in the Big West Tournament.
The Anteaters won their second straight regular season Big West title and look to claim Big West Tournament Champs for the third straight year.
After beating the Titans last Saturday, the Anteaters will rematch Fullerton on Wednesday, Nov. 10 in the Big West Semifinals.