Sweet 16 Bound

Nick Vu | Staff Photographer

Wake Forest 0, UCI 2

Facing the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Demon Deacons on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Irvine survived an absolute war.

The monumental 2-0 victory ties UCI with a 2005 Cal State Fullerton squad for the furthest NCAA Tournament advancement in Big West history (Sweet 16). Breaking the scoreless tie in the 12th minute, senior Tanya Taylor scored possibly the most impressive goal of her career.

“She cut inside, beat two players in the 18-yard box and bent one inside the top corner,” head coach Scott Juniper said of Taylor’s goal. “That’s world-class finishing.”

In the 70th minute, junior Coco Goodson took a pass from Taylor and booted it into the net.
“That goal let us breathe a little, but they were physical. It was a battle out there,” Goodson said.

Six cards were handed out as the referees completely lost control of the game. Consistently inconsistent, the NCAA officials missed several foul calls on both sides.

“We managed the tempo of the game, which was difficult because of the way the momentum of the game was being interpreted by the officials,” Juniper said.

In the 70th minute, freshman Zuri Walker was ejected for high-kicking, while attempting to progress the ball downfield. The situation disqualified Walker from the game and the upcoming Sweet 16 matchup.

Sophomore Mar Rodriguez experienced a physical battle with her defender. Both Rodriguez and her competitor tangled, throwing each other to the turf, resulting in a yellow card for Rodriguez in the 85th minute.

Admitting her frustration after the game, Rodriguez said with a smirk, “Obviously we had better attitudes and we worked harder.”

“I’m really proud of the way the team responded playing one player down,” Juniper said. “We were the aggressors still, with 10 players.”

Freshman Zoya Farzaneh contributed to the physicality of the game, registering her first start of her career in the biggest of stages. Farzaneh replaced senior Nikki Forrest, who was still feeling the effects of a head-butting collision against ASU.
UCI expects Forrest to be back against Washington University, but Farzaneh may be called upon again, this time to take the place of Walker in the Sweet 16.

ASU 1, UCI 2

A 1-0 heartbreaking loss to Long Beach State on Nov. 7 fueled the Anteaters throughout their 9 a.m. practices last week. Following a loss in the conference championship, the team’s fate rested in a committee’s hands last Monday. After receiving not only an invitation to play in the NCAA Tournament but two straight home matchups, the fortunate squad had a vendetta and wanted nothing more than to take it out on Arizona State at home on Nov. 12.

“The last time we lost was to Seattle and we went 17 unbeaten after that,” Taylor said. “After the loss [to Long Beach], coach said that we’d start next season on an eight game winning streak.”

Nick Vu | Staff Photographer

The team also received word on Nov. 9 that they had dominated the Big West when it came to seasonal honors. Juniper received his first conference Coach of the Year award in his fourth season at UCI. Senior goalie Danielle de Seriere’s school record 10 shutouts in a season earned her the distinction as the Big West Goalie of the Year.

It’s not a coincidence that upon Goodson’s arrival to UCI, the team suddenly became well-rounded with a shored-up “defensive rock,” as Juniper refers to them. For her contribution to a unit that played aggressively and lightened de Seriere’s load, Goodson was named the conference’s defensive player of the year.

The Big West Offensive Player of the Year honors went to none other than Taylor. Gliding gazelle-like across the field, exhibiting disgustingly impressive ball control and making defenders look silly, Taylor has dribbled circles around defenders, notching 11 goals and 12 assists.

Taylor, Goodson, de Seriere, Forrest, Rodriguez and junior Judy Christopher were all named to the All-Big West first team squad, while junior Lexi Kopf received All-Big West honorable mention.

Unfazed by the accolades, the Anteaters went to work on Friday night against the Sun Devils. ASU kicked the game off, but it was UCI that put the pressure on early. In the 14th minute, sophomore Devon Delarosa narrowly missed putting the ’Eaters on the board with a shot just wide of the left crossbar.

Sixteen minutes into the contest, the Sun Devils sent a hush through the UCI crowd when ASU’s Devin Marshall took a free kick from a teammate and acrobatically shot a left-footed volley into the right side of the goal. The two teams entered halftime with ASU up 1-0. ASU milked the clock following their lone goal, much to the surprise of Juniper.

“They were trying to run out the clock when there was still an hour left in the game. We continued to play aggressively and took advantage,” he said.

At half time, Juniper said he told his team to “play quicker, but not frantic. The goal they scored was a great goal, but they hadn’t gotten behind our defense. We had the better chances and if we continued to play with confidence, we would come back.”

After Forrest received a yellow card in the 66th minute for aggressively head-butting an opponent in midair, ’Eater Nation woke up. As the fans felt a sense of urgency, UCI remained calm. In the 72nd minute, Taylor rifled a shot off of the right crossbar. Delarosa collected the rebound, gathered herself, and snuck the ball past the goalie, tying the game at one.

“As soon as the ball hit off of the post, I saw it coming straight to my foot,” Delarosa said. “I just thought, this is the best opportunity of the game. I had a split second to decide what to do with the ball and I was able to take a touch and send it in to the bottom left corner.”

Keeping the foot on the throttle, Taylor and Delarosa connected once more. Taylor pushed the ball forward just two minutes later, crossing it from the right side to Delarosa who sent a header into the net for the game-winning goal.
Taylor’s two assists unselfishly thrust her into the school record books, as she passed Caty Cope (2007) to become the all-time single season assists leader. Sunday’s assist extended her record from 11 to 12 and placed her second all-time in team history with 34 points.

Coming into the contest with just two goals all season, Delarosa doubled her total and heroically saved the team’s season.
“Both of the goals that I made were the biggest of my career,” Delarosa said. “We have all worked so hard to get where we are … hard work really does pay off.”