By: Brendan Yu and Juan Gonzalez
UC Irvine 1 Stanford 0
UC Irvine (16-5-3) men’s soccer team advance to their consecutive sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament as they defeated No. 6 Stanford (13-3-3) 1-0 in overtime Sunday evening on the road at Cagan Stadium.
After a scoreless 90 minutes, the Anteaters capitalized on an opening in the seventh minute when sophomore midfielder Michael Sperber scored off an assist by senior forward Cameron Isawa at 6:35 to shock the home crowd. Goalkeeper Michael Breslin had three saves for the Anteaters, earning his third career NCAA Tournament shutout against a Stanford team that has scored 34 times in 18 games this season.
Not only did UC Irvine earn their first win in program history against the Cardinal, but they also handed Stanford their first loss at home this season. Dating all the way back to 1993, Stanford was previously 8-0-0 all-time against UC Irvine prior to Sunday’s game.
The Anteaters next match-up will come against No. 11 Providence next Sunday on the 30th.
UCI 3 UNLV 0
UC Irvine (15-5-3) beat a familiar foe in University of Nevada Las Vegas (14-5-3) Thursday night in Anteater Stadium by a score of 3-0. The win advances the Anteaters to the second round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament for the fifth time in school history.
Senior forward Cameron Iwasa, having played 11 postseason games, the most in school history, found the net two times Thursday night, off two assists by junior Mats Bjurman. With those pair of goals, Iwasa is now tied for the school record with six postseason goals, only adding to the list of accomplishments that he has contributed for the UCI men’s soccer team.
UCI’s defense was tested in the opening round against the UNLV team that would not let up and made Irvine work for their eighth shutout of the season. Goalkeeper Michael Breslin had a great performance with four saves and added to the season by securing yet another shutout for the ‘Eaters. It was not until the 75th minute, where Anteater Dennis Martinez scored with a header off a corner that helped put the game away for UCI.
The first half was an offensive exhibition with both sides wanting to score, as both teams had three shots on the goal apiece. It did not take long for a team to break the ice, as in the 6th minute Iwasa shot a powerful strike, assisted by Bjurman, from the top of the box, which Rebel keeper Ryan Harding got a piece of but could not misdirect the shot from going inside the net. UNLV did not forfeit to the challenge at hand and soon answered with a scoring opportunity of their own in the 16th minute, where junior Rebel Jason Khamvongsa had a shot that went wide right. Irvine’s Eduardo Calzada had an exciting opportunity in the 19th minute where he controlled the ball with his chest and shot with a volley that was deflected by a UNLV defender.
Irvine continued to push the pace in the first half and found the net once again in the 35th minute. The duo of Bjurman and Iwasa connected once again as Bjurman served a beautiful lead pass over defenders to Iwasa, having only the keeper to beat and thus scoring his second goal of the game.
Keeper Breslin came up with three saves in the first half including one in the 43rd minute where UNLV’s Aaron Goo shot from 20 yards out and was still on target. Irvine went into the half with a 2-0 lead over UNLV with some space to breathe. The second half, however, showed the Rebels coming out and looking to score with shooting seven times and looking to cut the Irvine lead.
UCI’s second half was stellar as they added five shots on goal against the UNLV keeper and controlled the remainder of the game. The Anteaters wasted no time in the second half, as in the 48th minute, sophomore Andy Mendoza had a close opportunity at goal with a header off a corner kick that just sailed over the crossbar. The Rebels would not submit to the pressures of being down 2-0 on the road, as in the 58th minute both Kamdem Bradley and Irvin Somera had chances to score against the ‘Eaters defense off consecutive shots. UCI would answer the UNLV pressure in the 72nd minute when Gor Kirakosyan set up Cameron Iwasa off a tricky back-heel pass that led to a shot on goal resulting in an Anteater corner. That play would lead to the ‘Eaters third score of the night off a header from Martinez off the assist by Kirakosyan, which sealed the game for the Anteaters.
“Defense is what’s going to get us to that national championship,” Breslin said.
The Anteaters will need their defense to play their best Sunday night, as Stanford has scored 34 goals in 18 games this season.
“It’s going to be key to our success if we want to continue in the NCAA Tournament,” coach Chris Volk said.