Freshmen Flourish in Rout

Marlin Agoub/Photography Intern

UCI 4, UNLV 0

UC Irvine shook off their 2-0 loss to the University of South Florida by crushing the University of Nevada, Las Vegas 4-0 at home on Sept. 23. Senior Miguel Ibarra was the only non-freshman to score in the contest. Freshman Juan Gutierrez, who missed time due to a torn ACL, scored his first goal in his Anteater debut. Also scoring his first career goal was freshman Bryan Breslin, while fellow first-year Lester Hayes III earned his second career goal. Christian Hernandez delivered two assists as an attacking midfielder..

The game started tenuously for UCI as they were outshot 5-2, but it wasn’t until the 19th minute until Hernandez connected with Marco Franco with a give and go pass. Franco’s shot at goal found Hayes streaking towards the net and he put the ball away to make the game 1-0. UNLV still remained aggressive on the attack and delivered a dangerous shot that luckily missed off the crossbar after the opening goal. However, right before the end of the first half, Hernandez fed a long ball into the penalty box to find Gutierrez, who extended the lead to 2-0.

“I’ve been waiting for this for nine months. I just wanted to be back on the field,” Gutierrez said. “To get that goal was a blessing. I thank God for that.”

In the second half, the midfield found their momentum and danced circles around the UNLV defense. The UNLV midfielders were frustrated during possession as they were given little space to find penetrating passes to their forwards. Moreover, the ’Eaters’ midfielders were solid in combining passes with one another and bringing the ball downfield for quality looks at goal. Coach George Kuntz made changes in the midfield during the second half as the Anteaters still frustrated the UNLV attack and dominated possession.

By the 80th minute, UCI pushed their lead to 3-0 when Ibarra took a deflection in the penalty box and knocked in a half-volley with his right foot. As the game came to a close, Breslin joined the parade, nailing a header off of Norby Rodriguez’s corner kick in the 88th minute.

“On Tuesday we worked on closing down channels and space. If you look at an accordion, we’re all together. It’s not like stretched out, it’s compact like an accordion,” Kuntz said. “There’s a lot of depth in these young guys. Three freshmen scored tonight. That shows what the future is going to look like.”

Next Game: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

When: Sept. 28 at Anteater Stadium. 7:30 p.m.

What to watch for: This is UCI’s first conference game of the season. The Anteaters should not be fooled by the Mustangs’ 3-2-2 record..Cal Poly narrowly lost 1-0 to No. 4 Akron and tied No. 12 West Virginia after two overtimes and zero goals.. UCI’s speed meets Cal Poly’s physicality in a battle of opposites.