Irvine: Back in the Saddle

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UC Irvine’s women’s soccer team has avoided an NCAA Tournament hangover, starting their 2011 campaign 4-0 against formidable opponents, including No. 11 Texas A&M. With No. 2 Stanford on the horizon, the Anteaters hope to leave Palo Alto with arguably the biggest win in school history and a 7-0 record on Sept. 11. Before Stanford though, UCI can’t overlook Hawaii and Santa Clara in upcoming weeks.

UCI 2, Mississippi State 0

Freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Randazzo recorded her second shutout of the season, as the Anteaters continued to rely on Head Coach Scott Juniper’s offseason additions to improve to 4-0 on Sunday morning.

Former UCLA Bruin and sophomore transfer Natalia Ledezma scored her third goal of the young season in the 53rd minute, taking a pass from senior Judy Christopher and nailing a shot from 18 feet out.

UCI added insurance in the 81st minute when freshman Cami Privett scored the first goal of her college career.

Randazzo was only tested three times, as the Anteaters limited Mississippi State to 10 shots.

UCI 2, San Jose State 1 F/2OT

The Anteaters extended their regular season record to 3-0 on Friday night, defeating San Jose State just 36 seconds into the second overtime in the UC Riverside Invitational at UCR Soccer Stadium. UCI and SJSU played through a scoreless first overtime and remained tied at one until senior forward Amanda Hardeman picked an opportune time to score the first Division I soccer goal of her life. From 25 yards out Hardeman rifled a ball off the crossbar, which ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s back and into the net.

Senior CoCo Goodson found sophomore transfer Natalia Ledezma up-field in the 52nd minute. The former Bruin went one-on-one in a breakaway and outmaneuvered San Jose’s goalie. SJSU tied the game in the 72nd minute before Hardeman could send the ’Eaters home with a victory in double overtime.

UCI 1, Texas A&M 0

UCI was tested early and often by the Aggies on August 21. The former Big 12 Champions peppered the Anteaters with shots throughout the evening, but Irvine proved why their defensive unit is one of the strongest in the nation.

“Our defense will be ready for any offense they face,” junior captain Devon Delarosa said.

Goalkeeper Jennifer Randazzo was tested with 21 shots, but that didn’t stop the true freshman from recording her first career shutout. Randazzo was named the Big West Defensive Player of the Week and College Soccer 360’s Primetime Performer of the Week after No. 17 Irvine upset No. 11 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. The freshman made a few spectacular, diving saves and somehow defended a shot from point-blank range, holding her own in a defensive battle.

Senior Lexi Kopf was overshadowed by reigning Big West Player of the Year Tanya Taylor in 2010, but Taylor’s departure has allowed for Kopf to play with much more aggressiveness early this fall. Kopf took a pass from junior Dana Sanderlin in the eighth minute and put it in the back of the net for the game’s only goal. Two goals in the season’s first two games led to early season accolades for Kopf. The senior forward was named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Player of the Week.

“I definitely believe that this new 2011 team has what it takes to continue what we started last year,” Goodson said. “We know what it is like to play against great competition and we want more of it. We have learned from the great experience of the NCAA tournament and are ready to continue the winning tradition and our motto: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime.”

The No. 11 Aggies are the highest-ranked road opponents that the Anteaters have defeated in school history. But with No. 2 Stanford still on the schedule in Palo Alto on September 11, UCI hopes to pull off their biggest victory in school history.

UCI 2, UTSA 1

Irvine started their regular season off with a 2-1 win over UT-San Antonio in regulation on August 19 at the Texas A&M Invitational.

Ledezma scored her first goal as an ’Eater in the 9th minute. The Anteaters entered halftime with a 1-0 advantage, before relinquishing the lead in the 53rd minute. With the game tied in the 88th, Kopf struck the eventual game-winner. Sophomore Jordan Bruce and Sanderlin recorded one assist apiece.

A 4-0-0 start leaves a message to the rest of college soccer: Watch out for the ’Eaters! Despite the departures of Taylor and prolific goalkeeper Danielle de Seriere, Irvine has a freakish depth chart. From Ledezma to Kopf, Goodson, Sanderlin, Hardeman and Delarosa, this team is going to be tough to defend. Seniors Judy Christopher and Goodson make for a dominant tandem on defense. It might be too soon to get carried away, but with Randazzo off to a hot start, the pieces are in place for another deep NCAA Tournament run in 2011.

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