For 88 minutes, UC Irvine women’s soccer (8-4-4, 3-1-1) controlled and dominated the vast majority of action in their premiere ESPN3 matchup against UC Davis (4-9-0, 3-0-0) Thursday night. However, in just a minute’s time, a foul and late conversion would be all the Highlanders needed to pull a shocking 1-0 upset on Anteater turf.
“I’m 99 percent happy with what we did but it was the one percent that lost us the game,” head coach Scott Juniper said. “It came down to two moments…we missed our PK and they scored theirs.”
The first of the two moments came in 15 minutes into the match when UCR was called for grabbing from within their box awaiting a corner kick, subsequently awarding UCI an early penalty kick off the play.
With defender Andrea Mensen on the ball, the senior Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native attempted a straight, low bursting shot that catapulted hard into Aggies junior keeper Alex Smith’s arms.
The second arrived in the 89th minute when the Aggies were awarded a penalty kick off an ‘Eater foul that was called from within the box. On the ball, senior midfielder Mandy McKeegan cracked the ball to the right but UCI sophomore keeper Maddie Newsom dove to make the timely save. Unable to balm it though, the ball bounced out of Newsom’s hands and as the ‘Eaters stood frozen, McKeegan stepped forward and launched the rebound into the nets.
In the stat books, the ‘Eaters appeared to be the aggressors, having outshot the Highlanders, 10-8 while also earning more corners, 10-2.
“We looked high energy, we didn’t look like we were slow and we were beating them to most of the second balls,” coach Juniper said. “If you look at all the performance stats…we won the game by a mile.”
The Aggies did fire seven of their eight attempts right on frame, but Newsom had her eye out to clear six of them—the last of which was the dangerous head to head penalty kick prior to the rebound that went on to cap the game.
UCI had 10 shots and while only three were credited to be on target, there were a number of little headers and seemingly point blank chances that went just high or wide.
“I think we obviously dominated the game,” coach Juniper said. “They couldn’t string passes together, they couldn’t possess the ball, and they didn’t send more than two people forward for most of the game…so we weren’t under pressure.”
After opening the first half with a string of headers, the ‘Eaters’ best chance materialized after a foul call was assessed to the Aggies for holding and grabbing from within their box, resulting in the penalty kick opportunity for Mensen.
While the game was still young, the rare penalty kick call from inside the box was a sign of the high-contact game that the match soon became. As a matter of fact, the match would go on to conclude with a total of 21 foul calls, 12 on UCI and nine on UCD, as well as a yellow card assessed to each team.
UCD would answer with a few opportunities on free kicks, but the ‘Eaters would still hold out as the one’s to push the tempo, closing out the half with a 5-3 advantage.
“We were chiseling away at there backline and we got to their end line and got a lot of looks at their goal,” coach Juniper said. “Not big looks…but we got lots of little looks. Sometimes you’d much rather have one big look than lots of little ones…and the big one just didn’t show itself. Jess[ica] had a good chance…that one was a difficult one as it just fizzed across there.”
Sophomore midfielder Jessica Miclat’s opportunity was the ‘Eaters final significant chance in second half, a period that also began with UCI charging forward with a bombardment of shots.
In the 74th minute, redshirt senior forward Noel Baham, who had led the team with three shots and nearly put one in herself on a quick twisting low-rolling shot, bolted up the right flank and somehow sneaked a pass to Miclat who was camping from within the box. As though she heard the emphatic urges to “shoot!”from the crowd, Miclat quickly fired, but her shot went just over the crossbar.
Approaching the final minute in regular time, the Aggies made one last effort and with an untimely ‘Eater foul, UCD capitalized on the PK and subsequent rebound to pull off the upset.
As a result of Wednesday’s match, Davis extends its undefeated streak in conference play to three as the loss dents the ‘Eaters’ unbeaten record.
Having battled through rain and murky fields in Hawai’i last week, UCI will remain home for the weekend, welcoming UC Riverside (6-8-2, 3-1-0) Sunday for an late afternoon start at 2:00pm.
Losing to CSUN (6-4-5, 2-1-1) on the same evening that the ‘Eaters lost, UCR is one point shy of tying UCI, who currently still sits atop the conference with 10 points.