By Nate Macay, May 16, 2023
Cal Poly Pomona’s women’s soccer team faced off against UC Irvine April 8 in a competitive game that saw the Broncos earn a spring road victory over the Anteaters, winning 1-0.
Going into the game, Head Coach Jay Mason knew that UC Irvine would be a great test for his team and how his players could counter the physical team.
“UCI is one of the most talented on our schedule,” said Mason. “To play teams like this tests us mentally, and we want to see how our players react against a great team before the upcoming season.”
The Broncos were met by an aggressive Anteaters team in the early stages of the game as the ball was in their control throughout most of the first half. CPP had trouble stopping many of Irvine’s passes, and forward Tara Oper said the team lacked communication during the opening of the game.
“We knew we had to start with high energy,” said Oper. “Communicating is key, and we didn’t do that in their inner changing runs throughout the first but made sure to increase our intensity on defense.”
The Anteaters took an opportunity to convert in the final minutes of the first half, but they could not cash in, leaving the score even at 0-0 going into halftime. Coach Mason had players play in different spots throughout the course of the game to get a better feel for what he wants to see in the fall.
CPP got more passes off as they found their rhythm and created more opportunities to score in the second half. As the Broncos marched down the field in an effort to find their first at the goal, Irvine’s midfielder Marissa LeVine tripped up Marisa Salazar from behind and earned a penalty kick for the Broncos.
Coach Mason didn’t designate anyone to take the kick, so freshman midfielder Liberty Ortiz stepped up and claimed the opportunity. With the chance to give her team the lead, Ortiz confidently shot the ball toward the right side of the goal and scored to give CPP a 1-0 lead.
Ortiz mentioned that since the team did not have many penalty kick opportunities last year and she did not get a chance at any of them, she wanted to build her confidence by taking a shot at giving the team the lead. “I knew I could do it,” said Ortiz. “This was a big game, and I wanted to do everything to support my team, plus make a statement as well.”
With the final 20 minutes approaching, the Anteaters had another chance to score but were denied by goalkeeper Audrey Brown as she soared high and sent the ball over the crossbar to prevent Irvine from tying the game.
The Broncos’ defense remained on point in the late stages of the second half. With the ball in CPP’s possession, the horn sounded, and the Broncos earned a big victory over UC Irvine. Coach Mason said he was proud of his young team for staying poised for 90 minutes.
“It was a great test,” said Mason. “We have nine freshmen that are learning. We knew that our legs were going to be a bit heavy in the second, and we didn’t want to give them space and encounter speed to make life difficult for Irvine.”
Mason said he was also happy to see defender Bella Anderson play 90 minutes after missing much of last season with an injury. Her ability to cover ground and deny crosses are things that the coach mentioned he hopes to see more of in the fall.
After coming away with a great win, Ortiz said the biggest thing the Broncos will take from these spring games is how much they want to win next fall.
“This prepares us for what’s to come,” said Ortiz. “Playing games like these helps build communication and confidence with each other before next season starts.”
With the fall season approaching, follow broncoatheltics.com for more information about the 2023 season.
Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics
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