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HomeSportsSoccerUCI Advance to the Second Round After Dispatching Sacramento State 2-0

UCI Advance to the Second Round After Dispatching Sacramento State 2-0

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The UCI Men’s Soccer team (6-11-2, 5-3-1) defeated the Sacramento State Hornets (9-8-2, 4-5-0) 2-0 at Anteater Stadium on Wednesday, Nov 2.

The number three seeded Anteaters beat the number six seeded Hornets at home thanks to goals by senior midfielder Ashish Chattha and freshman forward Diego Otoya. 

The game started off with Sacramento State immediately getting the ball into the box with the crafty dribbling of junior forward Austin Wehner. The ‘Eaters defense, however, was quick to clear the ball away from danger. UCI then countered through a brilliant pass from redshirt sophomore midfielder Mario Anaya into graduate forward Robert Mejia. Mejia then took a shot which forced out the first save of the game from redshirt goalkeeper Edgar Guerra.

The beginning of the game continued with this end-to-end action. The Hornets hit a quick counter through sophomore forward Dominic Vegaalban, who got the ball near the Anteater penalty box, but failed to find the next pass to keep the attack alive. Still, in just the third minute mark of the match, Irvine got the ball back upfield where junior midfielder Oscar Cervantes skied a long-range shot.

The Anteaters struck first in the 15th minute mark, when Otoya demonstrated some great hold-up play with his back to the goal. He then lightly laid off a pass to the charging Chattha who blasted the ball into a Hornet defender. The ball took a deflection which sent Guerra the wrong way as he could do nothing but watch the ball hit the back of the net, putting the ‘Eaters ahead 1-0.

The ‘Eaters continued with confidence after a skillful turn by Chattha just minutes later whose shot was blocked by the Sacramento State defense. Mejia then had two shots within two minutes, both just grazing the wrong side of the post.

Sophomore goalkeeper Luke Pruter was called into action for his first save of the night in the 27th minute mark when the Hornets got off a free kick right to junior defender Jaime Robles. The header was sent low, but Pruter managed to get down and to his left for the save.

UCI went into halftime comfortably controlling the flow of the game, most notably winning duels in the midfield. The Hornets were having difficulties linking together multiple passes due to the tight marking by the Anteater defense. Sacramento State looked to shake off their demons of failing to make comebacks on the year. The team was (1-6-1) on the year when trailing in a match.

The second half saw much of the same as the first just at a slower pace. The first chance came to Irvine in the 55th minute mark when sophomore forward Jake Means. Means was only a few steps too slow to a very enticing ball in the box. The Hornets then quickly counter-attacked with a shot from Wehner, but it was blocked by the Irvine defense before reaching Pruter.

Pruter stepped up once more in the 59th minute mark when Sacramento State leading scorer junior midfielder Francisco Magana got his low driven shot saved by the Anteater goalkeeper. 

UCI sophomore midfielder Samuel Atiye impressively kept on after being subbed. He won the majority of his duels in the middle of the pitch, while also serving through balls to the darting Mejia and Otoya. 

The Anteater’s persistence once again paid off in the 71st minute mark when a beautiful through ball from Mejia met the bolting junior defender Eddy Berumen, who hit a vicious cross into the box which Otoya converted on, putting the Anteaters ahead 2-0.

The game got scrappy after the second Anteater goal with plenty of fouls, yellow cards, and even some shoves handed out between the Anteaters and Hornets. Otoya almost made it 3-0 in the 87th minute mark, but his reverse spinning shot went wide.

The Eaters then comfortably saw the final whistle blow, as the Anteater faithful roared with cheers to see their team move on to the second round of the Big West tournament.

When asked about the good form UCI has been experiencing towards the end of the year coach Yossi Raz said, “We are improving as the season goes on. We are understanding what needs to be done — both the staff and players. This is very exciting for us.”

Miguel Rodriguez is a Sports Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. He can be reached at miguer9@uci.edu