Just a day removed from an impressive victory over the Fairfield Stags, the UC Irvine Women’s Soccer team (2-0-0) gave head coach Scott Juniper his 100th career victory Sunday by powering through the Saint Mary’s (0-2-0) Gaels, 2-0.
The victory came courtesy of a relentless second half where the ‘Eaters redeemed an ice-cold start by launching in two goals to cap off the game and their successful opening weekend.
Senior defender Kelsey Texeira broke the game open in the 59th minute when she punched in her first career goal—a game-defining conversion that helped snap an Anteater cold streak that went on for nearly 46 minutes.
Junior forward Kiana Palacios followed Texeira up with the cushion and sealed the game in the 75th minute. Off a feed from junior midfielder Grayson Galbraith, Palacios sent a miracle from thirty yards out that zinged up and beyond the fingertips of Saint Mary’s Juilia McDonald, who bailed out the Gaels on five other occasions, three of which came in the hands of Palacios.
Having already allotted three goals on eight attempts—six of which have hit the mark, Palacios has clearly wasted no time in proving why Big West preseason polls have honored her with an early all-conference squad nod.
Coming out of the pitch, UCI appeared stagnant and without the same bounce that they had Friday against the Stags. As the ‘Eaters failed to register a single shot in 45 minutes of action, Saint Mary’s took full advantage.
The Gaels jumped out and controlled the tempo offensively, hounding UCI with four quick looks at the net.
In the 12th minute, senior forward Morgan Darling gave UCI its first early scare with a dagger that would have gone straight into the back of the net had it not been for UCI goalkeeper Maddie Newsom, who intercepted it for her first save of the evening.
Newsom, who officially began her collegiate career Friday, would go on to deny another in the second half to earn her first shut out.
Saint Mary’s was not quite finished yet as they returned with yet another near backbreaker in the 24th minute when junior Hannah Diaz rammed a shot toward Newsom that ended up kissing off the crossbar. Before a rebound attempt could be made, the ‘Eaters bombed it out of play to force a Saint Mary’s corner kick that would not materialize.
After withstanding a long offensive drought and a couple of scares from the Gaels, UCI turned the tide with an aggressive attack.
The first of 11 ‘Eater attempts came in the 45th minute at the hands of Galbraith, who received a corner kick and popped a shot towards the Saint Mary’s goal. When McDonald deflected it, Texiera was there for the rebound and crashed it hard into the upper left side of the net.
Texiera’s goal ignited the fuel for the rest of the game. Four minutes later, redshirt junior defender Noel Baham came across with a low header that was saved by McDonald.
Adding onto the onslaught of shots, Palacios came in hot with three consecutive attempts of her own. At the 50th minute mark, Palacios dug up a shot that went high off due to a foul committed by Diaz. On the subsequent play, sophomore Lili Andino sent a high cross to Palacios, who caught it against her head from 10 yards out, and sent it straight into McDonald’s hands.
Roughly seven minutes later, Palacios continued her attack with a powerful shot from 25 yards out that was, again, met with the keeper’s gloves. On her fourth and final attempt, Palacios would not be denied, as her knuckleball would help secure UCI’s sweep of the opening week of preseason play.
With a promising start to the season, the ‘Eaters will look to continue building on their high momentum in Idaho where they will face San Jose State on August 26th at 1pm to kick off the Boise State Bronco Tournament. UCI will round out their stay in Idaho by facing their hosts Sunday before heading into Nevada on September 1st.
The team will return home Sunday, September 4th to face off against the Pittsburgh Panthers.