Fall Sports in Review
The close of a quarter means the close of a season — signaling the last time a senior suits up in an ’Eater uniform. It also stands for the first time a recruiting class wore the blue and gold. It celebrates a freshman’s first goal scored, like women’s soccer player Haley O’Brien’s header into the back of the net on Oct. 12 versus Pacific to take the 1-0 lead in the first half. A quarter also holds the final time a senior can sprint back to the midfield after adding a goal to the scoreboard, like Rachel Wood’s game-winner on Oct. 20 against cross-town rival Long Beach State.
A season is a lot more than a compilation of games. It’s a battle story, and every box score tells a tale.
Fall quarter is home to six sports for the ’Eaters: men and women’s soccer, men and women’s cross country, men’s water polo and women’s volleyball.
This season men’s soccer finished 5-14-1 overall and 2-8 in conference play. The ’Eaters added 14 new players to their squad, making them the youngest team in the Big West. The ’Eaters were off to a fast start, winning their first three games against San Diego, LIU Brooklyn and Detroit, but would finish out the rest of September without a win. Irvine added a victory to its record on Oct. 13 in its home match against CSU Fullerton in a 2-1 finish and ended the season with its fifth and final win in a 1-0 victory over Cal State Northridge.
Senior Everett Pitts, also known as “The General,” and junior Marco Franco were named to the All-Big West Honorable Mention team for their 2012 efforts. Pitts was also named a Lowe’s Senior CLASS candidate earlier in the season. After scoring three goals in his first three games as an Anteater, transfer Gor Kirakosyan was honored with a Big West Offensive Player of the Week Award. Kirakosyan finished with the second highest goals scored this season, with four behind teammate Cameron Iwasa, who totaled six. Iwasa played and started in all 20 games for a total of 1,797 minutes played, more than any other ’Eater. In addition to his six goals, Iwasa added two assists for a team-high 14 points.
As Irvine’s lone graduating senior, Pitts says to the younger generations, “Live it up, because it goes by really fast. I remember coming in as a freshman and the seniors told me the same thing and I thought, ‘No, I’ve got four years here,’ but it really does go by really fast.”
Sharing the same field, the women’s team ended their season with an overall 9-8-4 record for a 5-1-3 finish in conference play. Unlike the men’s team, the women were 1-4 after their first five games to enter September with a losing record. However, the ’Eaters turned it around, winning back-to-back games against Oregon State and Cincinnati. UCI totaled five victories in the month of September, including wins in its first two league games versus the Cal State Fullerton Titans and the UC Riverside Highlanders. Irvine then went 3-2-3 in October and qualified for the Big West Semifinals. Facing off against the Titans in post-season play, the two teams went scoreless in two complete halves to force overtime play. Also scoreless in overtime, Irvine would eventually fall 3-0 in a penalty shootout to bring their 2012 campaign to an end.
Just short of the tournament, UCI still went out with a bang. In its 10 Big West matches, Irvine’s defense allowed just 27 shots on goal and 71 in all 24 games. The ’Eaters .667 win percentage in one-goal games since 2009 tops all Big West schools, and four of their five shutouts have come in matches against ranked teams or teams that also received votes, including Auburn, Oregon State, Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.
’Eaters Natalia Ledezma, Rachel Wood and Dana Sanderlin were all named to the First Team All-Big West, while Corey Tobin received Second Team honors and Haley O’Brien represented UCI on the All-Freshman Team.
Sophomore Laura McGrail led the ’Eaters with six goals, trailed closely by senior Wood, who added five.
Irvine played its way to its fourth consecutive winning season.
Meanwhile, Irvine’s men and women’s cross country teams represented UCI at races that included the Stanford Invitational, the Triton Classic, the Titan Invitational and the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational. The men’s highest finish was at the Highlander Invitational on Oct. 13 when they finished with 30 points for first place.
Senior Rex Nelson received Big West honors when he finished second out of 229 runners at the Adidas/UCI Invitational to open the season. Nelson was named the Athlete of the Week for his efforts. Nelson also led the ’Eaters in the Stanford Invitational and the NCAA West Regional.
Calvin Tan finished with the best time for UCI at the Triton Classic while Steven Melena led the ’Eaters in Riverside and Blake Warner in Fullerton.
The ’Eaters combined for their best finish in six years.
The women earned their best finish for the season at the Titan Invitational as they clenched third place with a total of 73 points.
Senior Chloe Fata finished first for UCI twice — one in the season opener and her second in Riverside.
Camille Maron led the ’Eaters at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational and was named the Big West Athlete of the Week after her first place finish in the Titan Invitational that took place on Oct. 19.
Colleen Lillig also had two lead-finishes for Irvine as she led UCI at the Stanford Invitational and again in Seattle.
The ’Eaters finished sixth in the Big West Conference Championship to match their sixth-place finish in 2011.
The fifth team to have completed their 2012 campaign is the men’s water polo squad, who came out with a 14-12 overall record. Dominant in their first games as a team, the ’Eaters mounted a nine-game winning streak to open the season 9-0 before losing their first game 14-7 versus Cal on Sept. 15. Irvine turned it back around and took their next four matches followed by back-to-back losses, and then back-to-back wins. As their last victories of the season, the ’Eaters struggled to put one away in the second half of the season, losing the rest of their nine matches.
Although the ’Eaters struggled at the tail end of their season, they still put up big numbers. Bojan Hrlec led UCI with 63 goals on the season, followed closely by Mitch Wise who totaled 62. Both had a game-high of six goals and decorated seasons.
On Oct. 26 Hrlec was named the ESPN Zone Anaheim Anteater of the Week after delivering a game-winning goal with just 29 seconds left to play to lift UCI above No. 5 Santa Barbara
Wise received MPSF Player of the Week honors on Sept. 3 and was named the ESPN Zone Anaheim Anteater of the Week on Oct. 10. Ranking seventh in the MPSF with an average of 2.48 goals scored per game, Wise was named to the All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honorable mention team. Wise totaled 162 goals scored in three season with the ’Eaters.
Back out of the water, women’s volleyball ended their season with an 11-22 overall record with five conference wins in 13 games. This season saw senior libero Kristin Winkler break the Big West record for career digs as she surpassed the previous mark on Nov. 17 in UCI’s match against Long Beach State. Winkler also became the first Anteater to earn a spot on the All-Big West first team with a total of 2,260.
Teammates Aly Squires and Shannon Flemming also represented the ’Eaters and were both named to the All-Big West honorable mention team. Squires led UCI with a whopping 443 kills for a 3.72 kill average to come in at sixth place in the Big West. She also ranks 90th in the nation and recorded 15 double-double matches with a season-high 22 kills against Arizona State in addition to 22 digs in the same match.
Flemming recorded a 1.02 blocking average while totaling 210 kills and 103 blocks. The middle blocker recorded a season-high eight blocks against Cal State Fullerton and tied her personal-best aces in a single match with four in the match against Oakland.
As one chapter closes in the sports world, UCI continues to be a competitive force in the Big West. Seniors welcomed a new crop of freshman as they finished their careers with UCI, and the newcomers had a chance to contribute to their programs in their debut as ’Eaters.