It did not take long for the UC Irvine women’s soccer team (5-1-0) to return to winning fashion Sunday evening as the ‘Eaters paced themselves to a dominant 2-0 victory over Pittsburgh, a respectable member of the ACC conference, in front of a home crowd.
Junior forward Kiana Palacios lead a monstrous offensive charge, attacking Pittsburgh senior keeper Taylor Francis on five instances while landing four right on the mark. The Lake Forest native, who continues to lead the ‘Eaters this season in shot attempts and goals with 23 and six respectively, crushed home what would become the game winner in just her first attempt of the evening in the 21st minute off a feed from junior midfielder Alex Karlowitsch.
The Palacios-Karlowitsch tandem would showcase their chemistry once again in a 49th minute déjà vu play where the duo cushioned the game in the same way in which they had first broken it open—a Palacios header on a Karlowitsch assist.
Junior defender Andrea Mensen put the cherry on top of the match with an unassisted conversion in the waning minutes of regulation. Mensen’s goal was her first on the season, second of her career at UCI.
Pittsburgh was outpaced by the ‘Eaters offensively for nearly the entirety of the match, putting up just four attempts to 15. While the Panthers had two great looks at the net late in the second half, UCI keeper Maddie Newsom was there on both occasions to pick up her 12th and 13th saves on the season. Sunday’s victory would be Newsom’s third clean sheet on the year following successful shutouts against Saint Mary’s and Boise State in August.
The ‘Eaters asserted themselves quick and early on in the opening period, seemingly eager to redeem themselves from a backbreaking loss to Nevada last Thursday that had concluded on a Wolf Pack penalty kick eight minutes into overtime. UCI made sure that Sunday’s game would not go down to the same circumstances.
Offensively, the ‘Eaters barraged Pittsburgh with a number of shots that kept consistent pressure on Francis right out of the gate. Junior midfielder Grayson Galbraith kicked off the onslaught of shots with an attempt that was deflected off of Pittsburgh. Redshirt junior defender Noel Baham followed up Galbraith with a shot from the corner that was errantly blocked by her own team.
Patiently probing the defense, UCI would finally strike gold in the 21st minute. When Karlowitsch was rewarded a free kick on a foul call on Pittsburgh, the third year veteran launched one toward Palacios who received the pass with a header that darted past Francis and into the far post.
With the advantage early on, the ‘Eaters stayed poised defensively and allowed just one clean look for the Panthers, who had only managed a shot that went far wide.
In the second half, UCI came out firing as though the score was still tied. Palacios jumped out against Francis within the opening minute and attempted a quick one that was denied. On a subsequent corner kick, Palacios tucked her foot under a shot that was intended to sneak through but Francis managed to disrupt the play and the shot went wide.
On the 49th minute, however, Palacios and Karlowitsch synched up again for yet another completion that slipped past Francis. On a Panther foul, Karlowitsch lined up a pass that, again, found Palacios’ head and carried past the keeper.
The Panthers had a chance to retaliate late in the 77th minute on a shot by sophomore forward Sarah Krause, but the attempt was to no avail as Newsom was there to block it.
As Pittsburgh’s window for a come back began to ebb away, Mensen locked the game up with a free kick that ricocheted against the crossbar and into the net, giving the ‘Eaters a commanding 3-0 victory.
Finding themselves back on the win column, the ‘Eaters will have a chance to continue on a second streak when they face up against Pac 12 foe Oregon at the Fullerton Tournament.