By: Kevin Vote
UC Irvine men’s soccer weathered a tough stretch of home matches last week, suffering a 1-0 defeat to Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday before drawing to CSUN 0-0 on senior night to solidify a spot in the Big West conference tournament.
UC Irvine 0 – Cal State Fullerton 1
UCI lost their second O.C. Derby of the season Wednesday night after Fullerton converted a second half penalty to grind out a one goal victory.
Both sides tested each other through early set pieces in the opening minutes of what turned out to be a cagey affair. One of the ‘Eaters best chances of the first half came in the 28th minute via a Fullerton defensive miscommunication. Fullerton junior goalkeeper David Elias came out of his goal to collect the ball at the same time that the Fullerton defense headed the ball back to Elias. UCI senior midfielder Mats Bjurman almost pounced on the mistake, but the Fullerton defense did well to recover and prevent a shot on the open goal.
Fullerton threatened to score several times as halftime approached, but the execution was lacking on both occasions. Freshman forward Brandon West was played into the UCI box in the 38th minute, but he launched an off-kilter shot into the side netting. West almost scored again in the 44th minute, but ‘Eaters junior goalkeeper Elliot Farmer, filling in for injured starting goalkeeper Michael Breslin, came up with a save to deny the attempt.
UCI junior defender Matthew Tilley had a few chances to give the ‘Eaters a lead early in the second half, but couldn’t convert either. In the 53rd minute, Tilley barreled into the Fullerton box and just missed a flicked on header following a corner kick. A few minutes later, Tilley almost scored a tap in at the back post following another corner kick. UCI’s last decent chance of the match came when freshman midfielder Luis Leon found himself with the ball in the Fullerton box in the 62nd minute, but his shot was blocked.
Momentum swung towards the visitors in the 70th minute when the official awarded a penalty kick to Fullerton following a handball in the UCI box. Senior midfielder Julian Okai then sent Farmer the wrong way to put Fullerton up 1-0. The final twenty minutes of the match were heated as UCI pushed for an equalizer, but the ‘Eaters came up empty and senior midfielder Gerardo Gonzalez was sent off in the process. Gonzalez tallied his first yellow card in the 84th minute, and accumulated his second yellow card in the 90th minute to earn a red card.
“It was not our best performance tonight. It’s a shame that the game was decided by a penalty kick. I think deservedly there could’ve been one called for us as well, so I think that that’s a bone of contention so to speak,” said head coach Chris Volk.
UC Irvine 0 – Cal State University, Northridge 0 (OT)
On Saturday night, the ‘Eaters played CSUN to a 0-0 draw to seal a spot in the Big West conference tournament.
Senior night festivities took center stage before the start of the match, as UCI honored seven seniors. In a game that knotted 55 fouls and 10 yellow cards, there were more tricks than treats at Anteater Stadium.
“Every senior has contributed to this program. If you look at the body of work that those guys have had over their careers here, they’ve been a part of a very successful program. They’ve helped put this program on the map,” said Head Coach Chris Volk.
UCI’s first chance fell to senior midfielder Mats Bjurman in the 19th minute, as the match got off to a slow start, but quickly picked up. Bjurman found space in the midfield and fired a long range effort that went just wide of the CSUN goal.
CSUN responded almost immediately in the 20th minute, as senior midfielder Carlos Gonzalez latched onto a through ball in the UCI box, but Farmer was there to make the save for the ‘Eaters. In the 23rd minute, senior midfielder Eduardo Calzada found freshman midfielder Ivan Canales at the top of the CSUN box, but Canales’s shot went just wide.
Calzada almost scored in the 37th minute when his shot was redirected on goal, but CSUN senior goalkeeper Adam Hobbs made a diving save in his first real action of the night to keep the score tied at 0-0 going into halftime. UCI continued to attack in the early second half in an effort that almost immediately paid dividends.
Freshman midfielder Ivan Canales broke through the CSUN defense to start the second half, but Hobbs did well to save the attempt. The ‘Eaters had another chance in the 49th minute, as sophomore defender Randall McDermott swung in a cross that clipped the crossbar. After a period of domination early in the second half, UCI then went on the defensive.
Farmer came up with a fantastic double save to keep the ‘Eaters in the match in the 63rd minute. He stopped a CSUN header and then sprawled out to stop a volley attempt on a rebound from the headed attempt. There was late drama in the match, as UCI junior defender Jack Birkenbeuel was sent off for being issued his second yellow card, giving up a penalty kick in the 89th minute. CSUN looked destined to win it, but Farmer guessed the right way and came up with a save to send the match to overtime.
UCI, playing with 10 men, was still dangerous in the overtime period. In the 98th minute, Calzada dribbled his way into a dangerous area and crossed the ball across the face of the CSUN goal, but McDermott placed his header too high. Bjurman almost gave the ‘Eaters a shock lead with a free kick in the 103rd minute, but his shot rattled the crossbar from distance. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, and now UCI will continue on to postseason play.
“We had to win in order to host and be the number two seed, but we achieved one of our objectives and goals of the season, and that’s to get into the Big West tournament,” said Volk.
Big West conference tournament play begins Saturday, when the ‘Eaters will travel to Cal Poly for the first round. The last time the two teams played was earlier this season, when UCI tied Cal Poly 1-1 at Anteater Stadium. If the ‘Eaters win against the Mustangs, they will travel to face off against Fullerton in the next round of the tournament.