'Eaters ousted on PKs

IRVINE — Twice the UC Irvine women's soccer team erased one-goal deficits, including a goal with 1:27 left in regulation in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against visiting San Diego.

But trying to expunge the painful details that followed two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods and gave the Toreros a 5-3 win on penalty kicks, may never occur, especially for five Anteaters seniors.

Senior Amanda Hardeman finished a cross from junior Dana Sanderlin in front to force overtime, nearly 48 minutes after USD had broken a 1-1 deadlock.

The Toreros (12-7-1) opened the scoring in the fifth minute and had a 2-1 halftime lead against a UCI team that had allowed just one goal in its previous eight contests.

The Anteaters (14-4-3) simply kept coming.

Sophomore Zoya Farzaneh converted an assist from freshman Cami Privett in the 23rd minute to knot things, 1-1.

But Taylor Housley cashed in the second assist by senior West Coast Conference Player of the Year Stephanie Ochs in the 41st minute to put UCI on the brink of elimination.

That's where both teams remained for the final 21-plus minutes of field play, before the penalty-kick shootout was invoked to decide which team would advance.

USD went first and converted each of its five tries.

UCI senior Judy Christopher, a three-time All-Big West performer who did not have a goal this season, saw her opening penalty shot saved by USD senior Courtney Parsons to put the visitors in the driver's seat.

When Ochs drove home the Toreros' fifth and final attempt, UCI was eliminated, 5-3, on PKs.

UCI nearly got chance to pull even in the penalty shootout, as USD senior Elissa Magracia's shot caromed off the left goal post, appearing to be just outside the reach of diving UCI freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Randazzo. It bounced off the post and rolled across the goal line and into the far side of the net for USD's fourth PK conversion.

Sanderlin, senior All-American CoCo Goodson and sophomore Zuri Walker all converted PKs for UCI.

Natalie Garcia, Meghan O'Rourke and Lexi Deol made good on USD's first three penalty kicks.

"Judy hit her [penalty kick] absolutely perfectly and that was where she wanted to put it," UCI Coach Scott Juniper said of the unsuccessful PK. "It was just inside the post and you've got to say the USD goalkeeper made a spectacular save on it."

Juniper, however, had high praise for Christopher, one of three captains who had five career goals.

"Judy Christopher was nothing short of sensational," Juniper said. "I thought she was the best player on the field for the 90 minutes, plus the overtime. I thought she was absolutely top class. It was the best midfield performance I've seen since I've been a coach here. It was a complete performance.

"When you've got a captain like that, and you say to the team: 'OK, who wants to take a PK?' She's the first one to step up. That kind of defines who she is and what she has done here for four years."

Not among the PK rotation for UCI was senior forward Lexi Kopf and sophomore forward Natalia Ledezma, who led the team in scoring with 11 and 12 goals, respectively.

Ledezma did not play in either overtime, as she was tended to on the training table for an unspecified injury.

Kopf's three shots, two of which were on goal, tied for top honors as UCI produced an 18-9 shot advantage. But Kopf was blanketed defensively all night by Koel, who along with senior Erika Wesley stood out on the back line for the winners.

The win avenged a 3-2 nonconference triumph by UCI at USD on Sept. 25.

It also extended USD's winning streak to eight.

It was the second straight NCAA Tournament appearance for UCI, which had never been to the event until last year, when it reached the Sweet 16. UCI also had its second straight Big West Conference regular-season title to take away from this season.

"We put ourselves in a bit of a sticky situation going down after just a few minutes," Juniper said. "These seniors [also including center defender Sarah Devine] have been a special group and have come a long way."


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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