UCI searching for punch

Anteaters lost nearly 85% of their goal production from 2010, when they won Big West crown.

August 22, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,
  • UC Irvine's Enrique Cardenas, in the air, tries to get off a shot as Cal State Fullerton goalkeeper Brian Escalante, left, blocks it.
UC Irvine's Enrique Cardenas, in the air, tries… (FILE PHOTO, Daily…)

The UC Irvine men's soccer program did much better playing its opponents than the percentages last season. So it was that despite a 14-3-3 record, its second Big West Conference regular-season title in three seasons, and a No. 8 national ranking, the Anteaters were denied an at-large berth into the 48-team NCAA Tournament.

An upset loss to Cal State Fullerton in the conference tournament that UCI had won the previous two seasons, its No. 62 RPI ranking, two losses in its last three games, and a lack of a signature win left what Coach George Kuntz said may have been his best team ever out of the postseason.

Innocence, a bit of prestige and a modest streak of two straight postseason appearances were not the only things lost in the 2010 campaign. Close to 85% of the goal production is also gone, though Kuntz believes that his roster is rife with potential firepower.


The most proven of the returners on offense is senior Miguel Ibarra, who led the team with 10 assists last season on his way to first-team all-conference recognition. He shifts from midfield to forward.

Senior goalkeeper Andrew Fontein is also a notable returner, back for his fourth season as a starter. He had 11 shutouts last season, when he earned second-team All-Big West laurels. He has 20 shutouts for his career.

"[Fontein] is as fit as I've ever seen him and he is a very focused young man," Kuntz said. "He has prepared himself for the pros, if he should get that opportunity."

Senior Jimmy Turner and junior Everett Pitts were starters on the four-player back line in 2010, but Pitts will be joined there by three new starters as Turner shifts to the midfield.

"[Turner's] leadership is needed more centrally this season," Kuntz said. "He will be a captain for us and he has been wonderful."

Of UCI's 46 goals in 2010, only seven were scored by returners. And no returner scored more than two.

"We have a pretty strong back line and goalkeeper," Kuntz said. "We just don't know exactly where the goals are going to come from."

Decorated forwards Amani Walker and Spencer Thompson combined for 17 goals last season before being selected in the MLS draft, as was defender Corey Attaway, whose five goals were third on the team.

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