Cal is now 25-6-1 in season openers since the program began in 1982.
The Golden Bears own a 9-0-1 all-time record over the Anteaters.
Only one of the program’s 10 newcomers made her debut in tonight’s game – freshman midfielder Alexa Vandevanter (Alamo, Calif.)
IRVINE, Calif. – The No. 20/18 California Golden Bears (1-0-0) showcased a solid returning core as three team veterans found net in a 3-1 victory against UC Irvine (0-1-0) Friday evening at Anteater Stadium in Irvine. Seniors Rachel Mercik and Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick and sophomore Ifeoma Onumonu each sent the ball in to up Cal’s all-time record to 25-6-1 in season openers.
“We are obviously very pleased to get a win on the road against a very good UC Irvine team. Coach Juniper had an excellent game plan and they prevented us from finding our tempo,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “We were a little jittery being that this was our first game, so we’ll have to solve that, but all in all it was a good performance.”
Cal nabbed the lead near the 17th minute with an unassisted shot from 20 yards out by Mercik (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) into the upper right corner of the net. The defense held on through the first period as each team scraped out two shots that missed the net.
“This goal represents the hard work I’ve been putting in to improve my game, but also how hard our team has been working as well. For our team to score in the 16th minute of our first game, on the road, under the lights, in front of an opposing crowd, is an accomplishment our team should be very proud of,” Mercik said. “I couldn’t be happier to start off my last Cal season with a solid win and a team with the dedication to keep that streak going.”
Upon return from the half, the Bears needed just six minutes to notch their second score of the game – a deflected shot off the top of the box by Fitzpatrick (Pleasanton, Calif.) that went off Anteater keeper Jennifer Randazzo’s hand.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native Onumonu scored goal No. 3 at 67:31 off a long-lead pass by veteran defender Emi Lawson (Seattle, Wash.). The speedy Onumonu beat Randazzo with a lob over her head on a one vs. one breakaway.
With just ten minutes left in the game, Irvine cut the lead to 3-1. A scramble in the Cal box led to a turnover in favor of the Anteaters as freshman midfielder Sammie James turned to score near the left post.
The Bears return to action Monday in Malibu with a 1 p.m. game on Pepperdine’s Tari Frahm Rokus Field.
16:40 Cal -- Mercik, Rachel (unassisted) 51:08 Cal -- Fitzpatrick, Kaitlyn (unassisted) 67:31 Cal -- Onumonu, Ifeoma (Lawson, Emi) 80:54 UC Irvine -- James, Sammie (unassisted)
California 1 (Kruger, Emily 1), UC Irvine 3 (Randazzo, Jennifer 3)