Shea Groom & Texas A&M Hope to Avenge Last Season’s Loss To UC Irvine on Monday
(All times listed are Eastern.)
UC Irvine vs Texas A&M – 10:00 PM
It’s the de facto return leg of a non-conference matchup that was one of college soccer’s most fiercely fought last season, when UC Irvine upset the odds to take down Texas A&M in College Station. The situation in Irvine is vastly different this year though. The young A&M team still finding its feet at the beginning of last season is no more, replaced by an ambitious bunch who can make it rain goals at the drop of a hat.
Their opponents may be going through something of a transition phase after losing some crucial players to graduation following the 2011 season. Irvine definitely endured a roller coaster ride in their opener on Friday night against BYU. The Anteaters looked out of sorts early, coming out slow and paying the price as BYU were up by two goals headed into the closing minutes of the second half. All it took was a little desperation to set a fire underneath Scott Juniper’s side though, and they fought back to 2-2 to force the match to extra time. They’d suffer heartbreak there, but it still underlined the battling spirit and resilience that has served this Anteaters squad so well in recent seasons.
They’ll need every bit of that and more on Monday night if they are to harbor hopes of a second straight upset of A&M. A slow start akin to the one on Friday will probably bury UCI in a hole they can’t get out of, meaning the hosts have to come out on fire to try and match the likely onslaught coming from the visitors.
Portland vs Oregon State – 10:00 PM
The battle between the state of Oregon’s top two teams has been decidedly one-sided, a fact that has to gnaw at Monday’s visitors considering their rapid ascent up the Pac-12 and regional hierarchy. OSU seemingly had their best chance to finally top their rivals last season. Two of them in fact, with the clubs meeting in both the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament. But both times, Oregon State just couldn’t find that final blow, dropping the regular season match in extra time before having their hearts broken after penalties in the first round of the Big Dance. OSU might be spurning those missed opportunities, because they come into this year’s meeting as clear underdogs. Losses to graduation, injuries, and international duty have left the Beavers needing the shuffle the deck, and the result of which could be seen on Friday, as OSU left it very late before netting a winner against UAB. They’ll likely need much better on Monday night against a Portland side whose confidence surely must be soaring after their opening night triumph over North Carolina. The defense wobbled a bit at times, but they dealt with the Tar Heels effectively, forcing them into many long shots while looking dangerous, and scoring, on set pieces to take home the win. A game on, they’ll be hoping to throw off the shackles a bit and put together some more scoring opportunities through the run of play. They’ll still have to be wary of an Oregon State side though that may ultimately relish the role of being the hunter instead of the hunted, as was the case last season.