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UCI at home vs. USD

November 07, 2011|By Barry Faulkner
  • Scott Juniper is pointing toward another extended postseason run when it opens the NCAA Tournament on Friday at home against San Diego.)))))) men's soccer head coach Scott Juniper, standing second from right, jokes with assistant coaches, standing from left, Wendi Whitman, Peter Boyer and Collette Swensen during an exhibition game against Fresno State at Anteater Stadium Wednesday, August 10, 2011.] *** []
Scott Juniper is pointing toward another extended postseason… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

The UC Irvine women's soccer team, on the heels of its second straight Big West Conference regular-season championship, is closer to the old guard than new kids on the block for this season's NCAA Tournament.

During the NCAA.com's live webcast of the NCAA Tournament pairings Monday, the No. 24-ranked Anteaters (14-4-2) learned they will play host to San Diego (11-7) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the first round.

But before UCI's portion of the bracket was revealed, they were energized by seeing their school listed in graphic breakdowns of some of the tournament's heavy hitters.

UCI was listed as a key win for Stanford, a regional No. 1 seed, prompting a buzz from the assembled UCI players who convened to view the 30-minute show at the student center.

The players later were gratified to be mentioned as the team that eliminated Wake Forest, another No. 1 regional seed, in last year's NCAA second round.

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"When we saw our name up there as a key win for Stanford, it was exciting," UCI senior defensive midfielder Judy Christopher said. "It was like, oh, they know who we are. It's exciting to know that we're not just a dark horse, but a team that you need to look out for. We are a good team, a great team, and you can't underestimate us, because we are not going to go easy on you."

UCI proved impossible to overlook last season, when it defeated Arizona State, 2-1, and then-Atlantic Coast Conference champion Wake Forest, 2-0, in the first and second rounds, respectively, both at home.

UCI was eliminated by Washington, 1-0, in double overtime in the Sweet 16 to finish 19-3-2 and put the program on the map.

UCI repeated as regular-season conference champion, but for the second straight year lost to Long Beach State at home in the final of the Big West Tournament.

The loss to the 49ers, a 1-0 verdict on Sunday, meant UCI had to earn an at-large berth. But with its national ranking and its strong RPI (No. 18), it made the 64-team field.

The opener against USD is a rematch of a Sept. 25 nonconference meeting that the Anteaters won, 3-2, at USD. The Toreros enter on a three-game winning streak, having won four of their last five.

UCI had won seven straight and had four consecutive shutouts before falling Sunday.

"It's a lot more familiar this year," Juniper said of his team's second straight NCAA Tournament. "Last year, I remember feeling very different. We'd written a brand new page in history this time last year. But we've been here and everyone knows we can compete at this level."

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