Anteaters take high road

UCI withstands physical play to prevail in Big West Conference opener at home Wednesday.

September 30, 2010|By Barry Faulkner,
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

IRVINE — In a conference with a penchant for an unsightly brand of play, the UC Irvine men's soccer team showed in the Big West Conference opener Wednesday night that it maintains a preference for a more beautiful game.

The Anteaters, ranked No. 9 by College Soccer News, dominated possession in a scoreless first half and peppered the net after intermission to produce a 3-0 victory over visiting UC Riverside.

The win was the third straight for Coach George Kuntz's two-time defending conference tournament champions (8-1), who have now earned shutouts in each of their victories this season.

Junior goalkeeper Andrew Fontein made just two saves as the hosts amassed an 18-4 shot advantage.

But it wasn't until senior forward Amani Walker knocked one inside the far post in the 47th minute that UCI could fully claim the upper hand on the Highlanders (3-5-1).

The third straight "clean sheet" for the 'Eaters was, however, stained slightly by some wayward elbows, dangerous tackles and other manner of mayhem, as the visitors collected three of the four yellow cards issued and had 14 fouls, one more than those whistled against UCI.


"This was different than anything we've experienced this season," Kuntz said of the rugged play. "There was a lot of cheap talk and stuff on the field and [we] saw the elbow to [senior midfielder Gray Bailey's] mouth. He was feeling his teeth to see if they were moving.

"This is a physical conference and every team we play in this conference, including this team, plays that way. [The Highlanders] just came off a very physical game with [Loyola Marymount] in which I think there was 10 yellow cards. We have, I think, the fewest yellow cards in the conference. So we need to wake up and protect ourselves."

Bailey, who scored the second goal in the 63rd minute, twice found himself on the wet grass checking his facial features for damage.

"It's real physical, man," Bailey said. "I got hit a few times. I definitely got the worst of it. This is definitely one of the more physical leagues in the nation. There's more fouls. It's not necessarily as pretty as other conferences, but it's tough. I got drilled once in the face and took another one later on, but you just have to keep your focus and not let it get to you. I might have a little chipped tooth, but other than that, I think I'm OK."

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