When I was 14 years old, I stepped foot on the UCI campus for the first time. My brother was playing in a men’s baseball league all-star game at Cicerone Field (that’s where our baseball team plays).
As my mom and I circled Peltason, we couldn’t find the ballpark. This was before iPhones turned us into zombies in search of the magical red dot. I hopped out of the car in the biological sciences department and approached two different students. They had no clue we even had a baseball team.
“This school sucks,” I thought to myself.
Four students later, we were better off on our own. Eventually we found our way to the ballpark and watched a game of baseball that day, but I vowed to never attend a school that was so apathetic about its athletic department.
Low and behold, here I am – a fourth year journalism major here to show you the ropes for all things Anteaters. If, by the end of the year, you communists out in the bio department still don’t know where Cicerone Field is, I’ve completely failed.
So ‘Eaters, we have a men’s basketball team. Head Coach Russell Turner is entering his third season after dipping on a cushy role as the assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. He did so in order to become a head coach rather than remain an assistant. It was ballsy, but that’s what Turner is all about. At 6’7, “he’s tall as shit,” and those were his exact words when describing 6’10 sophomore center Mike Best to me last fall. Our best returning guard has an afro that is bigger than the basketball he dribbles. Mike Wilder is clutch from three-point range, makes his free-throw attempts and has even played power forward despite being 6’2 with a buzz cut … not that he’s ever had one.
Adam Folker is our starting center, along with another senior. Imported from Canada, Folker is as good of a rebounder as he is at making money. The center is a business guru, and if you play your cards right, he just might reveal the secrets to his Folker System.
Will Davis is a sophomore forward who broke the UCI single season blocks record as a freshman; Chris McNealy is a junior guard who came up clutch in the Big West Tournament last year; and Daman Starring is a lefty with huge biceps who has probably never missed a UCI women’s soccer game since transferring here from Centenary.
The Anteaters lost 20 games last season, but they’re surprisingly the most experienced team in the Big West. With seven-foot freshman Connor Clifford now on board, things are looking up, or at least other teams will be looking up this season. We just might make our first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history one of these days.
We have a women’s basketball team. Our program was on a roll for a couple of seasons, but then choked in the first round of the Big West Tournament last spring, leading to the firing of Coach Molly Goodenbour. Promoted from assistant to head coach, Doug Oliver takes over a squad that was 9-7 in conference last season.
Recent graduate Kiara Belen is now on America’s Next Top Model College Edition. She also won the booty poppin’ contest at Shocktoberfest last season, while averaging 6.1 points in 30 games.
Back from knee surgery is Jazmyne White, who is one of the more genuine people you will meet on this campus. White struggled at the free-throw line early in her UCI career, but she’s a hard worker who alters shots, secures rebounds, and has all the qualities that coaches look for. Hopefully White is back and better than ever in 2012.
We have a women’s volleyball team. Paula Weishoff, a former USC standout, is our coach and unfortunately, often prefers coaching the women’s US national team to winning some games with the Anteaters. For the past two years, she’s departed from a struggling Anteaters squad to pursue other opportunities, only to come back to a losing team. They’re 5-8 so far in 2012 … not bad. Maybe she can stick around.
Kristin Winkler plays libero for our Anteaters, meaning she’s cool enough to wear another jersey color like a goalie does in soccer. Winkler lives by Joe Dirt’s motto, “Life’s a garden, dig it.” She is UCI’s all-time leading digger, and has already compiled 234 more in 2012.
Our men’s volleyball team doesn’t suck. We won the 2012 Division I National Championship, which was our third in six seasons; however, our beloved coach, John Speraw, has switched allegiances and gone back to his alma mater at UCLA. Which brings me to another point: don’t fall in love with our coaches; they’ll just break your heart and move up to Westwood. Under first year Head Coach David Kniffin, the Anteaters should still be a top five team in the nation in 2012.
Tennis, anyone? No, seriously, anyone want to try out for our men’s team? They were pretty bad last year. After two straight impressive seasons, the men’s tennis team struggled mightily in 2012, finishing 7-17. The women’s squad, on the other hand, made it all the way to the Big West Championship and lost to Long Beach State. We have a little thing called the Black and Blue Rivalry between UCI and Long Beach State; let’s just hope that they get Beach slapped again in 2013.
Football! Whoops, fútbol. The closest thing you’ll get to foot-ball at UCI is a water polo player taking a swift kick in the family jewels under the water surface. But we do have two exceptional soccer teams. Scott Juniper is the women’s soccer team’s coach and everyone’s favorite British sweetheart. He’s fiery, he knows his stuff and the players love him. There’s no other coach in the Big West that prepares quite like Scott and despite a 4-6 start, they’re still not out of the hunt for the 2012 Big West Championship.
The men’s soccer team has struggled out the gate at 3-3-1, but Coach George Kuntz will get the team back on track. Last season they won the Big West title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, only to be upset by Saint Mary’s in the second round.
Believe it or not, Anteaters can swim. The men’s water polo team is off to a 10-1 start and is coming off of a fifth place finish in the MPSF Tournament in 2011. Junior driver Mitch Wise is a beast and should step in for Trent Baxter, who led the Anteaters by example and verbally in 2011.
The women’s water polo team took home fourth place in the 2011 MPSF Tournament. Jessy Cardey is just a junior, but she’s impressed over the past two seasons and this year should be no exception. They were 25-8 last year, so if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, the women’s water polo team can give it to you three out of every four nights.
Cross country still exists at UCI. If you didn’t know that, then you missed your only opportunity to see them race in Irvine all year. The men’s team finished fourth at the UCI Invitational on Sept. 8, while the women’s team finished 10th. If watching the end of long distance races is your thing, check out the Titan Invitational at Cal State Fullerton on October 19.
For the past four years, 800-meter sprinter Charles Jock has led the men’s track and field team. After winning the national championship in 2012, Jock went on to qualify for the US men’s 800-meter Olympic qualifying heat, but fell one race short of London. Hopefully someone learned a thing or two from Jock, but in all honesty, what set Jock apart from the rest of the nation just couldn’t be taught.
The women’s track and field team features a promising sophomore, Jessica Imani. As a freshman, Imani broke the UCI school record for hammer throw twice in 2012. Her mark stands at 166 feet, 11 inches.
And last but certainly not least – baseball. Manager Mike Gillespie is a college baseball Hall of Famer who made a cameo in “Moneyball” as Athletics assistant coach Ken Macha.
Our team wears navy blue pinstripes, kind of like the Yankees, and stirrups – kind of like what your grandfather probably wore in Little League. The ’Eaters are old school to the core, bunting runners over to their biggest fan, “Super Fan” Keith Franklin. Super Fan has the mop-top of a Neanderthal in the Geico commercials and the passion of a puppy chasing his tail in circles for hours.
A weekend at Cicerone Field is peaceful and entertaining. There, you feel the breeze coming off of the Newport Beach coastline, which thickens the air and turns home runs into outs at the warning track. You’ll hear South Park character Big Gay Al’s voice come over the public address system when the other team holds a conference at the mound: “Hey little fella how are you doing today? I’m super, thanks for asking.”
From free giveaways to baseball played the right way, a day at Cicerone Field doesn’t disappoint. In the past two seasons, the Anteaters have tossed two no-hitters, both against Long Beach State. In 2011, the Anteaters were one pitch away from the College World Series. Last year, the team struggled, but they remain a contender in a Big West Conference that annually boasts supreme talent from Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach and UC Riverside.
So here’s your study guide for the 2012-13 Anteaters. You bio students better cram, or I’ll bring foot-ball to UCI.