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Men's Soccer: 'Eaters collect crown

UCI defeats Cal State Northridge to earn fourth conference tournament championship.

November 18, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

It's not as if they take success for granted, but the players and coaches for the UC Irvine men's soccer team have come to expect nothing less than championships.

Just more than one week after claiming their fourth Big West Conference regular-season title, the Anteaters defeated Cal State Northridge, 1-0, on Sunday to earn their fourth conference tournament crown in six seasons.

This year's success, which comes with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, for which pairings will be announced on Monday, comes on the heels of an unfortunate 2012 campaign in which Coach George Kuntz's 'Eaters dropped 10 one-goal decisions and finished 5-14-1, 2-8 in conference.

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With Sunday's win, UCI's seventh in a row to extend its unbeaten streak to eight, the 'Eaters take a 13-4-2 record into their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance. After posting their ninth shutout of the season, they also take supreme confidence.

"We all believe we are going to be the hardest-working team on the field," said junior forward Cameron Iwasa, who had the game's only goal in the 66th minute. "Every single one of us believes we are the most talented team on the field, regardless of who we are playing. I mean we played UCLA this year and they are the No. 1 team in the country [a 3-1 UCI home win on Sept. 13]. There's no question in our minds we were the better team that day. This [title] isn't anything we didn't expect. We expect to win every game we play. So the fact that we have put a [winning] streak like this together has not been surprising for us."

The goal began when sophomore defensive midfielder Mats Bjurman intercepted a pass near the top of the Matadors' 18-yard box. He immediately hit senior forward Enrique Cardenas, about 10 yards away and Cardenas fed the ball through two defenders onto the foot of Iwasa, who blasted it from directly in front of the right post, across his body and inside the opposite post.

It was the seventh goal of the season for Iwasa, who had the assist on UCI's game-winning goal in the 2011 overtime conference tournament final with UC Santa Barbara. Cardenas, who leads the 'Eaters with eight goals, earned his team-best sixth assist to give him 22 points for the season.

Cardenas, the Big West Midfielder of the Year who had a goal in a 2-0 win over UC Davis in Friday's semifinal, was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

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