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'Eaters claim crown

Men's Soccer

UCI bests UCSB in overtime to earn third Big West Tournament crown and clinch NCAA berth.

November 12, 2011

IRVINE — The collection of celebratory choreography was on full display, but not until the UC Irvine men's soccer team showed it had indeed been there before at the Big West Conference Tournament championship game.

The Anteaters, who claimed the conference regular-season crown and topped UC Riverside in the home semifinal, scored in the fifth minute of the second overtime to defeat UC Santa Barbara, 3-2, Saturday at Anteater Stadium.

The victory was the third in as many Big West tournament title-game appearances for UCI, all against the Gauchos.

The No. 11-ranked Anteaters (16-5-1) topped the No. 15-ranked Gauchos (14-6-1) for the second time this season.

The win assured UCI an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, which will be its third appearance in the event.

UCI celebrated undoubtedly its most dramatic conference tournament final victory over the Gauchos, its most heated rival. UCI trounced the Gauchos, 4-2, in the inaugural tournament final in 2008. Coach George Kuntz's 'Eaters posted a 4-1 title-winning triumph over UCSB in 2009.

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To accentuate the adrenaline-rushing win, made possible when senior Miguel Ibarra booted home a rebound off the left post from a shot created and executed by freshman Cameron Iwasa in the 104th minute, UCI players slid in unison on their chests after running across the field to thank the fans in the stands.

Then, after accepting the trophy at midfield and posing for the championship team photo, they all chanted in unison to proclaim their status as champions, then all fell backward to the wet grass, as if they were felled trees.

Finally, they executed the dousing of Kuntz with ice water, adding individual streams from their water bottles to the obligatory bucket over the shoulders.

The game-winning goal was only the latest of three big ones for the winners, who forced overtime in the 88th minute.

Trailing, 2-1, senior Jimmy Turner launched a throw-in toward the far post and sophomore Enrique Cardenas got a piece of it with his head to direct it over the goalkeeper to make it 2-2.

UCSB had taken the lead in the 68th minute, when Dom Sarle redirected a free kick from Luis Silva into the upper corner of the net to give the Gauchos their only lead.

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