UC Irvine women’s soccer (7-3-3, 2-0-0) kicked off their opening week of conference play in great fashion, earning a hard fought victory against Cal Poly Friday (5-7-1, 0-2-0) before taking care of business at UC Santa Barbara (4-6-3, 0-2-0) Sunday.
Evenly-matched and tied 1-1 in a game that eclipsed over 100 minutes of action, it took a skillful play from redshirt junior Elizabeth Hutchison to carry the ‘Eaters over Cal Poly in their Big West conference opener Friday night at San Luis Obispo.
In the 103rd minute of the double-overtime affair, Hutchison descended upon her initial shot that ricocheted hard off teammate Grayson Galbraith. Collecting it from just outside the keepers box, Hutchison bobbed and weaved, juking her defender and getting around Galbraith before taking a quick step right to fire one high up and over the Mustangs’ keeper.
Hutchison’s triumphant goal was her first on the year, second of her collegiate career. She has launched five attempts in all thus far, three of which came on her highly aggressive play during Friday evening.
UCI and Cal Poly led a highly competitive match to kick off conference play with neither team taking on a clear-cut advantage over the other. The Mustangs came away with a slight edge in shot attempts (17-15) as well as those that managed to land on target (8-7) while the ‘Eaters recovered more shots (7-5) and earned more corners (3-2) than their opposition.
The first corner kick setup freshman forward Sydney Carr with a near perfect opportunity to convert her second career goal within the 30th minute. While that attempt did not end up coming into fruition, Carr returned 10 seconds later — this time, to help a teammate get one through the net. Riding up the right wing where she generated enough space to send it into the box where junior midfielder Shelby Lee headed her third career goal through to put the ‘Eaters up 1-0.
Cal Poly, however, went out on an aggressive effort to equalize in the second half. Shooting 10-7 better than the ‘Eaters, that equalizer would come just two minutes before the end of regulation.
As UCI’s backline sent one away before sophomore keeper Maddie Newsom secured one on her own, the Mustangs made their third consecutive attempt their charm off a rebound that was fired from the right and sent into the left side of the net.
With the high-stakes golden goal rule in play, both teams traded a single shot in the first overtime period. The ‘Eaters shot in the 93rd minute gave Cal Poly a quick scare as redshirt junior defender Reema Bzeih nearly put one through, but the keeper was there in time to recover it. The second extra time saw two more attempts from each side. Cal Poly struck their target twice in quick succession but Newsom and UCI’s backline was there to deny both. After a yellow card was accessed to Cal Poly in the 102:21 mark, Hutchinson got within striking range and displayed her athleticism to generate an unassisted game winner to bring the game to a close.
Following Carr’s first career goal in the ‘Eaters final nonconference match a week ago, head coach Scott Juniper expected his fiery first-year forward to have plenty more opportunities to strike gold.
In Sunday afternoon’s match against UC Santa Barbara, Carr scored career goals two and three for a brace that would help secure a 4-1 victory and UCI’s sweep of the week’s competition.
UCI took their first lead three minutes into the match. Nearly a carbon copy of the first goal the ‘Eaters had scored against the Mustangs two days prior, Carr quarterbacked the same play against the Gauchos: a cross from the right wing into the box where this time, redshirt senior Noel Baham was at the receiving end to head it home.
Gleefully for Carr, however, her shot attempts Sunday afternoon would go on to pay off. About 12 minutes after UCSB’s keeper recovered her first attempt, Carr floated around in the box where Baham returned the favor with a beautiful cross that hovered toward the aggressive first-year striker. As her defender took a spill, Carr capitalized on a one on one attempt with the keeper and knocked one cleanly through for her second career goal.
As the ‘Eaters held onto what some may deem the most dangerous lead in soccer at 2-0 heading into the second half, the Gauchos attempted to prove why the cliché may hold true as they broke away in the 60th minute to tap one past Newsom, dropping the deficit to 2-1.
Five minutes later, however, freshman forward Claire Grouwinkel redeemed the ‘Eaters when she dispossessed the player she had been guarding and drove up to the Gauchos’ keeper to put it away, giving the ‘Eaters a two-point advantage once more at 3-1. Grouwinkel’s conversion marked her first career goal and collegiate points in the blue and yellow.
Before the end of regulation, Carr would shut the doors on the match for good with another shot through the net in the 86th minute to complete her brace and the 4-1 decision.
With a highly successful road trip, the ‘Eaters will head home Thursday to open conference play at Anteater Stadium at 7:00pm against defending champs Long Beach State in a rematch of last year’s Big West Semifinals.