Memories and Regrets: Sports Moments That I’ll Take From UCI

I would like to think I am a person who is happy with the decisions that I have made throughout my life. But I will admit that I have made some questionable calls that I would probably take back in a second – going to the midnight showing of “Spiderman 3” instead of watching the Golden State Warriors close out the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, for instance. With my time as an undergraduate at UC Irvine coming to a close, I realize that my only consistent involvement at UCI has been sports. And as I reflect on my past four years, these are my most memorable moments and the decisions I would take back.

Over the last three years, the men’s basketball program has seen better days, but during the 2007-2008 season, my first year at UCI, they were one of the best teams in the Big West. Led by the senior trio of Patrick Sanders, Darren Fells and Marcus MacIntosh and Head Coach Pat Douglass, the ’Eaters finished with an 11-1 home record and earned a fifth seed in the Big West Tournament. Before falling to Cal State Fullerton in the finals, the Anteaters defeated Long Beach State, Pacific and UC Santa Barbara in the first three rounds to reach the conference championship for only the third time in school history. Although the conference tournament was held in the Anaheim Convention Center, the group formally known as Completely Insane Anteaters provided free tickets and free transportation. What did I do? I decided to stay in Irvine and “study.” What a shame.

I have never been an avid soccer fan, but I did discover my soccer passion during the 2010 World Cup. And I rediscovered that same passion last fall when I started watching the men’s and women’s soccer teams. Both teams had incredible regular seasons, as they dominated Big West play, but I will always remember the Lady Anteaters’ historic postseason run, reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history.

Coach Scott Juniper and company recorded an epic come-from-behind victory against Pac-10 school Arizona State and bullied Atlantic Coast Conference heavyweight Wake Forest. Although the loss against the Washington Huskies brings a feeling of melancholy, it was one of the most dramatic games of soccer I have ever witnessed, as the game ended in overtime with the Huskies’ Allie Beahan putting the game’s lone goal in the back of the net.

Following UCI men’s volleyball has been one of the greatest experiences. Unlike many Anteaters, I did not travel to Provo, Utah in 2009, but I did watch from home. Nothing was sweeter than watching the ’Eaters come back from a 2-1 deficit to claim their second title in three years. Since the 2009 title game, the Anteaters have not beaten the Trojans, losing their last five matches.

It has also been fun to watch the UCI-USC rivalry grow over time. After the Trojans lost the national championship, they waltzed into the Bren in January of 2009 and got revenge in the most dramatic fashion. The second-ranked Anteaters overwhelmed the No. 1 team in the nation by taking the first two sets, but once the third set began, the Trojans rallied back to take the match in five sets. Although the ’Eaters have lost the four straight since, it has certainly not been because of a lack of effort.

The UCI student body may be known for being apathetic, especially when it comes to sports, but on Nov. 21, 2008 and Jan. 22, 2011, that was not the case. In November of 2008, the Anteaters hosted the Oregon Ducks and the atmosphere was electric as 4,206 packed the Bren Events Center. This past January, 4,070 fans witnessed the ’Eaters topple rival Long Beach State. These two games showed what the UCI student body and surrounding community is capable of doing and all it takes is a little less apathy. It was amazing to see that on those two nights people actually cared about UCI athletics.

Before Stephen Strasburg made his pitching debut for the Washington Nationals on June 9, 2010 and made the league’s best hitters look foolish in the majors, the phenom pitched at San Diego State. In 2009, UCI’s baseball team claimed the No. 1 spot in the national polls and earned the right to host the regional of death, which included SDSU, Virginia and the defending national champions in Fresno State. If I had paid a mere five dollars I would have seized my opportunity to watch Strasburg overwhelm every collegiate batter before turning pro – but I didn’t. Instead I went to a friend’s apartment to watch the Lakers-Rockets game. And who knows, I may have lost my one and only chance to watch Strasburg pitch.

To this day I have yet to attend a UCI baseball game, but I realize that my days at UCI are limited, so that will soon change.

Memorable or regrettable, these are the moments that I will carry with me long after my tenure as an Anteater comes to an end.