By Marvin Luu
After 38 career matches that have amassed to three years of having her first goal elude her, junior defender Noel Baham finally struck gold Friday evening in Idaho against San Jose State (1-1-1)—a crucial equalizer that kept the UC Irvine women’s soccer team’s (3-0-0) win streak alive.
88 minutes into regulation and with the Spartans manning the lead since the 22nd minute, Baham dug her foot under the ball and crushed up a shot from the right wing, forcing what would become a double extra time 2-1 victory for the ‘Eaters.
Senior defender Kelsey Texeira, who assisted on Baham’s equalizer, popped in the dagger—a header within the box that arched into the left corner of the net—within the 110th minute in the second period of extra time to bring UCI’s win streak up to three. The goal marks the second for Texeira in her career and on the season.
Nothing came easy for the ‘Eaters in the opening half as the Spartans managed to answer their early offensive push with sufficient defensive pressure. When Baham went for a go ahead in the 15th minute, San Jose State’s sophomore keeper Paige Simoneau squandered the opportunity and the ‘Eaters’ closest chance at an early lead.
In the 22nd mark, San Jose turned the ‘Eaters on their heads when they began to attack UCI aggressively. Off a throw in, a mob of blue Spartan jerseys descended on the ball and managed to propel it straight toward UCI freshman keeper Maddie Newsom. While Newsom was there for the deflection and save, Spartan junior midfielder Sabrina Miller rebounded the ball and flicked it over Newsom.
Following the goal, the ‘Eaters began to play with a bit of desperation. While the team had managed to pull up a few looks at the goal, including one in the closing minutes of the first half from junior forward Kiana Palacios, the ‘Eaters urgency was evidently marked by a number of uncharacteristic foul calls and turnovers.
In the second half, UCI had found their patience again and managed to dance around the goal line on a few occasions. However, the Spartans stayed poised and attempted to put away the game with four shots of their own.
By the 88th minute, the game seemed to belong to the Spartans when Baham and the ‘Eaters turned the corner in crunch time.
Reading how wide off the ball was coming in from a Spartan sideline throw-in, Texeira rushed over and intercepted the ball before launching it high towards the right wing where it was received by sophomore midfielder Lili Andino. Noticing a streaking Baham, Andino tipped a back-header to Baham who evaded a defender with a powerful leading kick that sized herself up for a clear shot at the goal.
When the ball hit the back of the net, UCI’s sideline erupted. It would not be the last time the team would go crazy.
As Baham’s equalizer sent the game into overtime, it was Texeira who helped the ‘Eaters evade a potential tie up.
Following an initial extra time period where San Jose State’s junior forward Dorthe Hoppius nearly ended the game with a shot that Newsom just managed to grasp over her head, Texeira came in with a clutch performance in the second extra time period when she successfully connected on a header off a corner kick from sophomore defender Reema Bzeih.
This time around, the entire team ran out and swallowed Texeira in their arms as the scoreboard read 2-1.
With the victory, UCI has demonstrated one of its finest starts since 2011. The team has scored eight goals in three games while taking an average of 13 shots an evening.
The ‘Eaters will look to keep the streak going, when they round out their stay in Idaho against host Boise State on Sunday for a 1:00pm start.