The UC Irvine Anteaters’ Big West Tournament run was short-lived as a semifinal exit at the hands of the No. 1 seed Cal State Fullerton did them in Thursday night at Anteater Stadium in a match which saw UCI as the visitors in its own stadium to the top-seeded Titans.
The Anteaters and Titans actually tied as the score stood at 1-1 through two overtimes. It would take penalty kicks to see who went through to the final, and Titan keeper Katie Pulliam was up to the task. After sitting for all 110 minutes of play, she stepped into the net for the shootout round and stopped all three shots she faced. In turn, CSUF (10-8-1, 7-2-0) made all three of theirs including the clincher by Stacey Fox.
Regulation play was very spirited and saw the Titans take the early lead as Chelsey Patterson blasted a shot from the top of the box into the upper left in the third minute to put UCI behind the 8-ball early on.
UCI (9-8-4, 5-1-3) would even the score in the 32nd minute. Jenna Pellegrino hit an open Natalia Ledezma who raced up the wing, stopped, and crossed to a streaking Laura McGrail. She would glance a shot on net and two-hop it inside the right post to tie the match up.
Each keeper kept their team in the match. Lindsey Maricic had a pair of sprawling saves, once on Jenna Pellegrino and again on Laura McGrail tipping the ball just wide of the net. Rebecca Wilson had CSUF’s best chance turned away by Corey Tobin. Janali West had a great opportunity all alone off a high cross, but whiffed on her attempt.
The best chance came midway through the second half as Mar Rodriguez took a hard-angle shot and knocked it off the underside of the crossbar, but somehow the shot stayed out.
Altogether, Maricic finished with six saves to Tobin’s four. CSUF also had a two-foul advantage over UCI, while the Anteaters had three more shots and corner kicks that the Titans.
Dana Sanderlin was not present for the match due to injury, and with Devon Delarosa starting for the ‘Eaters, that puts each player at 84 career appearances for UC Irvine to lead them all-time.
McGrail notched her team-leading sixth goal of the season. Ledezma finished tied with McGrail in points with 12 as she earned her sixth assist on the season. Pellegrino’s assist was her first on the year along with her first point.
UCI will have to wait for the NCAA selection committee’s decision now. At 9-8-4 overall and 5-1-3 as the fourth-place team in the Big West, the ‘Eaters still have postseason aspirations, however, a semifinal loss does dampen them a bit. The NCAA Selection Show will take place online at ncaa.com at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, November 5th.