The UC Irvine Women’s Soccer team (5-3-6, 1-0-6) tied with Long Beach State (4-4-5, 3-0-2), 1-1, at the Anteater Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 9. Irvine had a strong first half, but the combination of a slowing attack and faltering defense made them lucky to escape with a draw.
Right out of the gate, the ‘Eaters dictated the game exactly how they wanted, getting Long Beach into a track meet and using their athleticism to manufacture opportunities on offense. This led to 12 shots in the first half and one goal, which traded on that athletic threat.
A cross into a crowded box landed behind UCI sophomore forward Suus De Bakker, who had to kick it back out to avoid a turnover. Long Beach defenders, who were scrambling to oppose threats all evening, over-pursued De Bakker. This left junior forward Erin Covey in the perfect position to take a shot on goal just outside the box, earning her first goal as an Anteater.
At first, Irvine’s explosive attacks were paired with a stout defense. Good team communication meant that Long Beach’s possessions were short and rarely penetrated deep enough to threaten a goal.
After halftime, two things became apparent: Long Beach was not going down without a fight and Irvine’s one goal was not going to be enough to win.
Long Beach was able to create open space by making their midfield passing slower and more methodical, letting the Anteaters’ swarming defense get itself out of position, before striking up the field.
These shots had good set up and solid spacing, meaning that the only thing standing between Long Beach and the scoreboard was redshirt junior goalkeeper Glo Hinojosa.
Hinojosa did her job with consistency and verve becoming of her high esteem amongst the team. Despite the impressive saves, in the 65th minute, Long Beach freshman forward Cherrie Cox was able to bait her out and barely put the game-tying goal past Hinojosa’s outstretched mitt.
Irvine’s attack turned stagnant as Long Beach was able to dominate the time of possession. UCI had a few shots on goal, but not enough to make a difference or put Long Beach back on their heels. Their attack was fully neutered aftering losing senior forward Alex Jaquez to double yellow cards in the 82nd minute.
After the goal, Long Beach was able to keep pushing and got more shots, but thanks to a renewed vigor amongst the ‘Eater defenders, none were able to meet the net.
Overall, though a win over Long Beach was just out of reach, Irvine established a strong plan of attack and learned exactly how that attack could be countered. This game will set the foundation for Big West postseason matchups, and the Anteaters look ready to compete in November.
Next, Irvine will host CSUN for another Big West matchup on Thursday, Oct. 13 at Anteater Stadium.
Benjamin Hendricks is a 2022-2023 Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.