Anteaters Sprint into First Place
UCI 2, CSUF 1
It would take more than wet conditions to stop the Anteaters from winning their second consecutive Big West matchup. After ending UC Santa Barbara’s home winning streak on Oct. 1, the Anteaters traveled to Cal State Fullerton to take a 2-1 victory against the Titans. Senior captain Jimmy Turner and freshman Juan Gutierrez were able to score for the ’Eaters, while Miguel Ibarra added his fifth assist of the season, which leads the team.
UCI came out assertively, possessing the ball early. Turner turned a botched corner throw-in into a beautiful shot that went right through the hands of the keeper and into the goal in the 13th minute. The Titans would respond aggressively and force an ’Eaters mistake in the 38th minute. After a Titans’ free kick, defender Jonathan Rivas slid to knock the ball out of bounds but instead chipped it into his own goal, tying the game at one.
Irvine possessed the ball for the majority of the first fifteen minutes of the second half, and when CSUF got their chances, they were unable to get past keeper Andrew Fontein.
In the 67th minute, UCI regained the lead on a beautiful give-and-go play by senior ‘Miguelito’ Ibarra and freshman Juan Gutierrez. Gutierrez’s second career goal would prove to be his first career game-winning goal as UCI took the 2-1 lead.
CSUF failed to respond and was unable to get past Fontein. His four saves in the game gave him 31 for the season as the ’Eaters notched another victory. UCI improved their conference record to 2-1 and their overall record to 10-2, creating a Big West showdown versus CSU Northridge in battle for first place.
UCI 2, CSUN 0
The UC Irvine ‘Think Pink’ festivities continued on Saturday as the men’s soccer team took on Cal State Northridge in a battle for first place atop the Big West. Sporting pink wristbands, the team fired up the crowd by tossing mini pink soccer balls into the stands before taking the field. Aside from the pink soccer ball used for the match, the story of the game was the physicality. The game ended with 32 foul calls between the two teams and a total of five yellow cards issued.
“We expected the game to be physical,” midfielder Bello Alhassan said, “Both teams wanted to win. We tried to focus on the game, rather than the fight.”
Alhassan played a big role in anchoring the defense early as he aided in stopping multiple CSUN attacks. He credited the strong defensive effort to the team’s ability to communicate and organize well.
In the first half, the Anteaters limited CSUN to only three shots on defense, but were unable to capitalize on their offensive opportunities.
The momentum of the game shifted in UCI’s favor when defender Everett Pitts thwarted a Matador fast break counter-attack. Running stride for stride side with a Matador striker, Pitts was able to use his body and strength to move the striker away and launch the ball out of bounds with authority. The play fired up the crowd and seemed to fire up the team as well. Shortly after, the ’Eaters would score on a Miguel Ibarra cross that was deflected into the goal by a CSUN defender.
The Matadors responded aggressively as they outshot the Anteaters 10-7 the rest of the second half. Goalkeeper Andrew Fontein continued to prove his excellence by tallying 11 saves and preserving the ’Eaters 1-0 lead late in the game.
The dagger would come on an unassisted goal by ‘Miguelito’ Ibarra in the 89th minute. After his shot was deflected by the CSUN keeper, Ibarra managed to slip it in by the near post, propelling the Anteaters to their third consecutive win and into first place in the conference.
While the second half did not have the same physical element the first half had, it added to the excitement, as both teams desperately made attempts at the goal. Multiple times the Matadors were inches away from tying up the game but were denied by the staunch ’Eaters defense.
At 11-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big West, UC Irvine will travel to UC Riverside on Wednesday before facing No. 5 Creighton in Nebraska this weekend.