UC Irvine Anteaters
Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #2 Big West
UC Irvine Team Page
UC Irvine had another great campaign, but again failed to make much noise in the NCAA Tournament. Just reaching the tournament should not be enough anymore. However, the Anteaters will likely take a small step back this season with the graduation of eight seniors who have taken UCI to the next level during their four year reign. But Coach George Kuntz has his program ready to reload and they will again compete for a Big West title and should have little trouble getting back to the NCAA Tournament. Winning a couple games after they get there would be nice though.
2011 Record: 16-6-1, 6-3-1
2011 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: George Kuntz
The ‘eaters offense was impossible to stop in 2011, but the defense should be much better in 2012. Everett Pitts and Marco Franco are two of the best in the conference and there are plenty of other options as well. Victor Calderon did not see too much action as a freshman, but he is a promising young player. Jake Marcon and Tarek Morad have a little more experience and are ready to step up. The defense returns the most talent, but there are young and talented players all over the pitch who can come in and play a much bigger role than they did in 2011. Forwards Juan Gutierrez, Lester Hayes III and Cameron Iwasa all gained valuable experience as freshmen and are a talented bunch that can pick up the scoring slack left behind by All-Everything striker Miguel Ibarra and Christian Hernandez. There are some sophomores in the midfield that are prepared for big seasons as well, most notably Bryan Breslin and Memo Licona. However, the midfield will not be all youth with the return of Christopher Santana and Enrique Cardenas. Santana is listed as forward, but can drop back into the midfield if needed. After tallying four goals and five assists in 2011, Santana should be able to fill the role Hernandez played last season. Cardenas, another junior, netted six goals last season and should see that number increase as an upperclassman.
Andrew Fontein spent every minute in goal last season. In fact, for four years he has been in the net for the Anteaters. He tallied nine shutouts and 86 saves during his senior season. With a career 50 wins and 29 shutouts, both school records, somebody has to fill the shoes of arguably the best keeper ever to stand between the posts for UC Irvine. Redshirt freshman Michael Breslin is the only returning keeper and Coach Kuntz’s recruiting class does not bring in many other options. Breslin has a lot to live up to, but like everywhere else on the pitch, the Anteaters are capable of reloading. Yet, the complete lack of collegiate experience is a major concern between the posts. This is a pretty young squad across the board. The recruiting classes have been great, but it remains to be seen if last year’s freshmen are ready to step into a bigger role or if this year’s talented crop of newcomers can fill in when needed.
The recruits are very good, led by Brazilian forward Thom Moreira, but there are hardly any seniors on the roster. Replacing the eight seniors that are gone may not be an issue when it comes to replacing their production, but it is an issue when it comes to replacing their leadership. If the crop of juniors is ready to emerge as leaders, this will be a great team. They will be a very good team either way, but 2013 might be the big year for UC Irvine. In the meantime, the Anteaters need to develop some chemistry, fill in a few holes, find a goalkeeper and build towards winning yet another Big West title in 2012. If they can have success in the NCAA Tournament this year, the expectations will be through the roof in 2013.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament
Goals: Enrique Cardenas, Junior, M/F, 6
Assists: Christopher Santana, Junior, F, 5
Shots: Enrique Cardenas, Junior, M/F, 38