The UC Irvine Women’s Soccer team (7-4-0, 2-1-0) defeated the UC Riverside Highlanders (3-7-1, 0-3-1), 2-0, at the Anteater Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 3. With three of four wins under their belt, the Anteaters gather steam as they dive into conference play.
The game started off slowly, with neither team obtaining a clean shot on goal for the entire first half. This scoreless half was due to the center defense of UC Riverside freshman midfielder Braelynn Llamoca. Crossing seemed impossible as Llamoca clogged up the middle, stopping the ball dead as soon as it came within two yards of her.
During the second half, the Highlander’s lively defense began to falter, giving the ‘Eaters an opportunity to score. With a mix of tenacious team play and individual excellence, Irvine secured two points that became the winning goals.
56 minutes into the match, UC Riverside head coach Nat Gonzalez substituted six of his starting players. As the Highlander bench took over the field, the wind was taken from out of the team’s sails. Both the team’s offense and defense slowed down tremendously.
UCI sophomore forward Alyssa Moore seemed well aware of this. In the 65th minute, Moore secured a ball deflected at midfield, ran past the defenders and scored a wide open goal.
“I knew I was up there all by myself. As a forward, you love those opportunities to take people one on one and I just went for it,” Moore said.
The Highlander’s offense was feast or famine the entire game. Offensive possessions mainly consisted of players kicking the ball down the field as far as possible. This strategy sometimes netted good opportunities and plenty of space; however, the ball was often given right back to the Irvine team due to the Anteaters’ strong defense.
Junior defender Piper Wurth anchored Irvine’s defense all game, saving two dangerously close shots on goal and even assisting one of her own in the 58th minute. She seemed to be everywhere on the field, covering her teammates expertly and allowing them to take the offensive risks that changed the game.
“I was out for quite a while, so it’s super fun to be back out there with everyone,” Wurth said.
The Anteaters played as a cohesive unit all game long. The ball was constantly active, fluidly and efficiently moving from player to player. Each stop seemed to immediately turn into a promising offensive possession as players operated with relentless energy.
With this win, the Anteaters increase their ranking to No. 4 and will have an opportunity to do so again at their next game against Long Beach State on the George Allan Field on Thursday, Oct. 7.
Benjamin Hendricks is a Sports Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.