The attention the men’s soccer team received on the Friday of Welcome Week could not have defined Anteater spirit any more than it did. With the pre-game rally offering an opportunity to mingle and pick up games essentials – the favorite being thunder sticks – before the featured game of the week, ’Eaters filled the stands with as much action as an MLS match. The first Friday of the year was spent right by over a thousand fans cheering on their fellow students who happen to also be athletes. While the ’Eaters might not have had as much to cheer about at the close of the game while the scoreboard revealed a 2-1 loss on home territory to Sacramento State, you wouldn’t have known from the sounds of the stadium.
At the start of kickoff, the Sacramento State Hornets pushed onto the ’Eaters’ side, hoping for an early chance at scoring. However, the resilient Anteaters took down the line and dominated the opening of the first half with a goal in the 22nd minute by junior transfer midfielder Gor Kirakosyan.
It was only a matter of time before the Hornets attacked the Anteater goal, scoring in the 30th minute to end halftime with a 1-1 tie.
“We came in more confident with more chances,” said goal-scorer Gor Kirakosyan. “And we put our heads down after the first goal.”
In the game’s closing minutes, Sacramento State squeezed in a lucky goal to lead by one, and subsequently played back on defense for the remaining six minutes.
Though the turning point of the game came late, the cheering and roars never stopped.
As sophomore Jared Alokozi explained, “I want to start out the school year right and be loud and go to all the sporting events to cheer on the Anteaters.”
Junior Maria Rubio pitched in, “This is my first game at UCI and hopefully I can make it to every sporting event on campus.”
Many students not only came to watch the men play, but to also regroup with their SPOP staffers and dorm-mates, as it marked the first official reunion for SPOP 2012.
“Absolutely amazing game,” senior Allyson Fierro exclaimed. “It’s packed, which makes me so happy to see the school spirit. It is also the SPOP reunion, bringing all of UCI together – the graduating fourth years and up to the incoming freshmen. I hope all of the events can be like this and a shout out to ASUCI for the pregame rally!”
While the night was filled with entertainment and positive attitude from the home side, an initial league loss for the ’Eaters is not a setback.
“We played them more, shot more, and dominated in positions, but had the couple missed cues that led us to the score we ended with,” said Coach George Kuntz. “It’s the beginning of league and our work ethic is good, but we need to get better at finishing and not giving up goals. It’s almost like we need to score three goals to call a safe win.”
The men’s soccer team consists of 14 freshmen, who are getting used to the loud stands and the connections with their new team.
“We build on these lessons,” said Kuntz. “It’s generally a young team. As for the freshmen, it’s trial by fire, they are learning on the job. They aren’t used to the environment with the fans cheering them on and the high pressure.
“My advice is to keep it simple for themselves, to connect the passes and we can expect a great season with that.”