#30 UC Irvine Men's Soccer 2014 Preview

UC Irvine Anteaters

Overall Rank: #30
#3 Big West
#30 UC Irvine Men's Soccer 2014 Preview
UC Irvine Team Page


UC Irvine won the Big West title and earned the 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They fell to eventual national runners-up Maryland in the third round, but it was still a very successful season for the Anteaters. But things will be a bit different on the sidelines as 19 year head coach George Kuntz left the program to head down the road to Cal State Fullerton. UC Irvine promoted former assistant Chris Volk to the head coaching job. He has been on the Irvine sidelines for 17 years, so the transition should be relatively smooth.

2013 Record: 15-5-3, 7-2-1
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Chris Volk

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Cameron Iwasa, Senior, F, 7
Assists: Mats Bjurman, Junior, M, 5
Shots: Cameron Iwasa, Senior, F, 62
Saves: Michael Breslin, Junior, GK, 58

Other Key Returnees: F Lester Hayes III, M Mitchell Alvarez, M Dennis Martinez, M Michael Sperber, D Thomas Janjigian, D Bryan Breslin

Key Losses: F Christopher Santana, F Enrique Cardenas, D Marco Franco, D Tarek Morad

The Anteaters boasted the best defense in the Big West in 2013. The unit should take a small step back without Tarek Morad and Marco Franco, who was drafted 13th overall in the MLS SuperDraft, but the defense should still be the strength of the team. Goalie Michael Breslin is now entering his third season as the starter and he showed drastic improvement in 2013, allowing just 19 goals in 23 starts and recording ten shutouts. As a freshman he totaled just three shutouts in 18 contests and gave up 30 goals. Breslin will be tested more this time around, but Thomas Janjigian and Bryan Breslin are a quality duo to build around in the back. Defensive midfielder Michael Sperber had a very promising freshman campaign and earned 18 starts on the year. If Matt Tilley and Victor Calderon can get healthy, Coach Volk will not have to rely too much on younger players.

The offense was not bad in 2013, but they could have been more potent. Now they will have to move on without two of their top three scorers. Enrique Cardenas had a superb senior season, scoring eight goals and dishing out seven assists. Fellow striker Christopher Santana added six more goals. That leaves a lot of pressure on this year’s senior striker group to pick up the slack. Cameron Iwasa is a proven playmaker and scorer who netted seven goals in 2013. Lester Hayes, a big 6-5 striker, will start beside Iwasa. He has 11 career goals through three seasons with the Anteaters, but has not been consistently productive. Mitchell Alvarez leads the midfield attack and another injured player who missed all of last season, Gor Kirakosyan, can help the attack from the midfield.

Final Projection:
With a drop in the defense and a question or two up top, Irvine will not likely win the tough Big West. But if everything comes together, they could make it back to the NCAA Tournament. The talent is there, but questions around a new coach and lost leaders up top and in the back, will make this team get off to a slow start. With games against Summit League favorite Denver, Clemson, West Virginia, Georgetown and Loyola Marymount in the first few weeks of the season, the Anteaters do not have the luxury of getting off to a slow start.

Projected Postseason: None

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 1.43 (77th in nation, 4th in conference)
Goals-Against Average: 0.80 (29, 1)
Shutout Percentage: 0.43 (32, 1)
Save Percentage:  0.753 (107, 4)


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