Bittersweet Sixteen

ALEX YEE | Staff Photographer

As the final seconds of regulation ticked down in the match against the Washington Huskies, UC Irvine entered an all too familiar scene — overtime. The Lady Anteaters played in five overtime games this season, accumulating a record of 3-0-2. As the extra period began, there was no doubt in the Anteaters’ minds that they were going to find the goal that would break a scoreless tie and propel UCI into the round of eight.

“We’ve been there before a number of times and we’ve been the stronger team going into overtimes,” Head Coach Scott Juniper said. “We were the stronger team for most of the overtime, but it was just one chance and one shot.”

That one chance and that one shot came in the 103rd minute of the game. But it wasn’t UCI’s chance or shot, instead it belonged to the Washington Huskies.

In the second overtime, Washington’s Sarah Martinez set up Allie Beahan inside the goalkeeper box. Beahan did the rest as she blasted the ball in a spot where UCI’s Danielle de Seriere could not reach. And just like that, UC Irvine’s Cinderella season struck midnight.

When the ball sailed over the outstretched hand of de Seriere, a record crowd of 1,254 was left paralyzed and speechless. The Irvine faithful was overcome by a strong feeling of melancholy as they connected with the pain and tears that ran down the faces of the Lady Anteaters.

“It hurts, it always hurts. I hate to lose,” Juniper said. “As a team and a program we work really hard and to lose such a tight a game it always hurts.”

The Huskies’ aggressive and physical style of defense kept the Lady Anteaters off-balance throughout the night. UCI managed five shots in regulation and two in the first overtime. During the regular season, the Anteaters lived off corner kicks, but against the Huskies they recorded only two corner kicks. Washington played an opportunistic defense, intercepting passes and converting them into offensive chances.

Washington kept de Seriere on her toes all night. The Huskies fired 16 shots in the match, forcing de Seriere to deflect nine of those shots away from the goal. Washington also forced UC Irvine to play air-tight defense in the box, as they totaled six corner kicks.

“[Danielle de Seriere’s] positioning was spot on, on a number of shots, but they put us under a lot of pressure,” Juniper said.

UC Irvine had many chances to create a goal, but it was the Huskies’ defense that shut the door on all of those opportunities.

In the eighth minute, Tanya Taylor took a shot from the left side of the pitch and missed wide right. Sophomore Devon Delarosa blasted the ball into the box in the 13th minute, but Washington’s Jorde Lafontaine-Kussman came up with the save.

In the 75th, UCI’s Judy Christopher found another opportunity to put in the first goal of the match, but the Huskies’ keeper squashed that chance.

After being held in check for the first 90 minutes, the Anteaters showed a spark in the first overtime. In the 98th minute, Christopher shot but missed wide. A couple of seconds later, Delarosa headed in a ball from inside the 18-yard box but she too missed wide.

Although UC Irvine’s chase for their first-ever national title came crashing down on Nov. 20th, the 2010 season will forever be cemented in UC Irvine history.

The Lady Anteaters made history as they were one of five schools to boast an undefeated conference record and are the only team to go untied or unbeaten in Big West action. De Seriere led an uncompromising defense that recorded 11 shutouts and allowed 18 goals this season.

Taylor led an overpowering offense that scored at will, recording 49 goals this season. Taylor not only led the team but also the Big West Conference with 11 goals, 12 assists and 34 total points. Coco Goodson played sidekick as the junior defender found the back of the net nine times this season.

This marked the final home game for seven seniors, who inherited a losing team and program and changed the face and culture into a national contender.

“This underlines four years of hard work, this is something we strived for since 2006,” Juniper said. “We brought in a lot of fresh faces [in 2007] and those fresh faces graduated from the program tonight. They established a culture and when you have a strong culture it is something that is passed down.”