Men’s Soccer Advances to Semifinals of Big West Tournament
UC Irvine men’s soccer team (13-5-2,4-5-1) blanked Sacramento State (6-11-3,4-5-1) in the opening round of Big West Tournament. After dropping the final game of the regular season, UC Irvine came into the tournament as the number two seed behind UC Riverside and played host to the third seeded Hornets.
UC Irvine’s goalkeeper Michael Breslin was able to secure his seventh shutout of the season and keep the ‘Eaters season alive as he recorded two saves as the ‘Eaters defense proved to be too much for the Hornets to handle.
It was a tightly contested battle as both teams were held scoreless in the first half, but the ‘Eaters kept pushing the attack on the Hornets defense and recorded a total of 18 shots, seven of which were on goal.
The Anteaters kept the pressure on the Hornets defense and a pair of UC Irvine’s seniors hooked up moments later to extend the lead to 2-0.
Breslin, along with the ‘Eaters defense was able to hold off a few threatening scoring opportunities by the Hornets as they saw two scoring chances sail over the net just past the outstretched arms of Breslin in the final moments of the game.
With the win, the Anteaters advance to play number one seed UC Santa Barbara in the semi-finals. The Anteaters look to redeem themselves after a regular season loss to UC Santa Barbara — their first loss of the season — which was decided on a last minute goal by the Gauchos.
“I know the guys are hungry for it. We’ve been talking about it ever since the last game we played against them and we’re ready to go out and do our best, and hopefully we’ll get that win and play in the finals,” said sophomore Matt Tilley.
The matchup will be a clash of Big West powers, consisting of a combined seven players who received All-Big West team honors, three of which are from Irvine.
UC Irvine has their hands full in taking on first seed UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos boast the Big West offensive, defensive and rookie players of the year on their roster.
Despite the tall task ahead for the ‘Eaters, coach Chris Volk isn’t preparing the team any differently than usual for this big game.
“I don’t think there’s redemption factor. I think it’s just our next opponent. We just happened to draw Santa Barbara. They’re the No.1 seed. That’s just the way the tournament is set up,” said Coach Volk.
The ‘Eaters look to continue their postseason run Wednesday night at UC Santa Barbara, where they will take on the Big West North champion Gauchos on their home field. Kickoff begins at 7:00 p.m., with the winner advancing to the Big West final.