After firing up 21 shots on Portland (6-2-2) Sunday evening, the UC Irvine women’s soccer team (8-4-0) seemed to be knocking on the door of a hometown victory that would have snapped a two game skid heading into conference play.
For 90 minutes, the ‘Eaters had dominated the Pilots, rendering them scoreless in the first half while putting on eight of their 21 shots on the mark.
In fact, head coach Scott Juniper believed that they had done nearly everything they possibly could to pull off a victory.
“We dominated for 90 minutes and that was a crazy one sided game,” coach Juniper said. “We killed them in every department…we outplayed them…we out possessed them…we were more physical than them… we showed more spirit them…[and] more togetherness than them.”
Instead, the Pilots handed UCI their third straight 1-0 loss off a sudden death “golden goal” that was punched in six minutes and four seconds into extra time.
“We credit the chances,” coach Juniper said, “we just didn’t finish.”
When sophomore forward Brittney Nguyen was shown a yellow card, Portland took advantage and drove one into the box where it ricocheted around a mix of blue and white jerseys before finding the foot of Pilots’ freshman Natalie Muth who launched it high into the upper left side of the net to bring the game to a close.
A number of ‘Eaters had great looks at the goal with junior mid fielder Kiana Palacios leading the team with eight shots, which included a pair of headers that were recovered by Portland sophomore keeper Rachel Lusby.
On a number of possessions, redshirt junior forward Noel Baham blitzed up the right side of the field and helped reward the ‘Eaters with a string of corner kicks.
Baham, along with redshirt senior defender Kelsey Texeira and freshman midfielder/forward Jessica Miclat, garnered three shots a piece with a combined five shots on goal.
UCI had cracked open the game with a relentless offensive push that forced Portland to play defensively for nearly the entirety of the game.
Miclat gave the Pilots their first major scare in the 22nd minute when she met Lugsby in the box and attempted to slip one past her for an early goal.
In the second half, the ‘Eaters did not show any signs of slowing down and continued to control the momentum. While Portland managed to put up seven attempts, UCI seemingly had an answer for their challenges.
Off a corner kick, Portland redshirt sophomore mid fielder Kaycie Young chipped one at the goal in the 60th minute, but UCI keeper Maddie Newsom was there to keep the game even. Newsom would go on to collect two for the night.
Late in the 84th minute, the Pilots gained some traction and put up a straightaway shot, but once again, it was rejected and turned back courtesy of Texeira who came in front of it and sent it out of bounds.
Offensively, UCI did not let up, still outshooting and barraging the Pilots with 13.
Baham gave the ‘Eaters one of their best chances on the evening in the 77th minute. Blitzing up the right flank to the momentous claps and encouragements from the crowd, the Redlands native dished the ball to a trailing Palacios who found herself open for a shot from straight down the middle. Lugsby, whoever, would yet again spoil the play with her sixth and final save on the night.
UCI’s final attempt came in the 88th minute when a ball was crossed to junior midfielder Alex Karlowitsch who put too much power on it and sent the ball high over the post.
It would be in the extra time period where the ‘Eaters were upset by one singular play.
Shortly after a yellow card was drawn on Nguyen, Portland drove the ball into the box where Muth came away with it and put the game away.
Dropping their last three games, all of which have been tightly contested, UCI will look to capitalize on their opportunities and get back on track in their conference opener at Long Beach this Friday at 7pm.
“The four games that we’ve lost…this team…we feel like we could have won everyone of them,” coach Juniper said. “That’s the mentality of the team. We’re going to move forward and figure out the next one.”