'Eaters skip by Tigers

IRVINE — What could easily qualify as the best run in UC Irvine women's soccer history continued Friday night, thanks to a dramatic and fortuitous skip.

Junior CoCo Goodson's slicing free kick from 28 yards out, averted a three-player defensive wall, then fooled Pacific goalkeeper Tashia Long with 1:40 left in the second overtime to give the Anteaters another sign that they are in the midst of a season that has, thus far, been special.

Goodson's goal was the difference in a 1-0 Big West Conference-opening triumph. According to UCI Coach Scott Juniper, it was also a sign that the Anteaters (9-1-2), ranked No. 23 by Soccer America for their highest ranking ever, are perhaps making the breaks that continue to go their way.

"[The Tigers (3-5-3)] had a chance in the second half that nine times out of 10 [junior Laura Hogan] puts in the back of the net," Juniper said of Hogan's shot from five yards in front that shot high over the crossbar early in the second half.

"You can argue there was a foul on our goalkeeper there, but the sport we play is games that are separated by small differences. But, that being said, last year, those small differences seemed to all go against us, and this year, they are all going for us. When they're all going for you and you're winning all those games by a small margin, that's a sign of the amount of work we've put in the last 12 months. If it was the odd one, then I'd feel lucky. But I give all the credit to my team tonight."

Juniper also gave some well-earned credit to the visitors, whose physical, disciplined play contained a UCI offense that came in having outscored teams 25-11 this season, including 20-6 during an eight-game unbeaten streak that it extended to nine.

"That was a rough game," Juniper said after his team posted an 11-9 edge in shots, but earned all nine of the contest's corner kicks.

"We have not come up against a team that is as physical as us, and [the Tigers] were as physical as any team we've played. We said to [our players] before the last 10 minutes, that we were getting closer and closer and they just had to keep playing with discipline, keep playing with passion and energy and it was going to come. And the free kick came and it was close to the goal this time. And when you've got someone like CoCo on the team, it's game over."

Goodson, in her first season at UCI after transferring from Texas, said she took advantage of a golden opportunity to score the golden goal.

"The entire goal was open, because their wall was off to the side, and I was just thinking to myself 'Don't hit it over [the crossbar]. Don't hit it over," Goodson said. "[The shot] curved at the last second. The goalie dived this way [to her right and toward the far post] and it curved to the other side [back into the middle of the cage]. The grass is wet and it skidded."

Goodson also credited Pacific, but said there may be forces at work that are behind her and her teammates right now.

"They are a great team, one of the hardest we've played all year, Goodson said of the Tigers. "They were very physical.

"But I do think we have something really special going on. We have a great group of girls. I don't know, we're just on a roll right now and I want to keep it going.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so tired, but so excited at the same time. Now we have to focus on UC Davis on Sunday."

Juniper praised the tireless work of forwards Tanya Tucker and Lexi Kopf, as well as a back line that included Goodson, Nikki Forrest, Sarah Devine and Alyssa Humphrey.

Senior goalie Danielle de Seriere made four saves, all of which were routine, to preserve the shutout.

It was the sixth straight win for UCI, with five of those being shutouts. UCI also received strong play from sophomores Mar Rodriguez and Dana Sanderlin, as well as junior Judy Christopher.

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