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#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - UC Irvine


BigWest.org chatted with UC Irvine head coaches Scott Juniper (women's soccer), Chris Volk (men's soccer) and Paula Weishoff (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.

#BWCWarmUp - Fall 2014
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altSpringing Into Fall: UC Irvine’s makeup this season consists of a well-balanced group of returners and newcomers hungry for success. While some view spring training as a follow-up to the fall, Irvine views the spring as the first half of the year leading into season.  The Anteater mindset is one of confidence as the ’Eaters head into matches – the players know they’ve put in the work during the spring and know they can come out successful at the end of every game.

Holy McGRAIL: UCI returns senior Laura McGrail, who paced the Anteaters with seven goals in 2013, a total which ranked third in the Big West.  Juniper emphasized that McGrail will help lead a deep offensive blend of returners and newcomers alike.  Irvine netted a total of 29 goals last season, the second-highest total just behind Cal Poly’s 33.

Two Is Better Than One: Last season junior Corey Tobin and senior Jennifer Randazzo battled every week for the starting goalkeeper position.  Tobin recorded 1001 minutes while Randazzo recorded 635 between the posts.  Coach Juniper believes the two will continue to compete for the spot this season as their intensity, work ethic and dedication consistently pushes each other to improve.  While both bring different skills to the table, Juniper stresses that the starting role will be determined on a week-to-week basis as practices will determine who starts that weekend.

Experience is Key: With five returning seniors, the Anteaters are saddled with a significant array of experience as they head into 2014. The Anteaters faced three ranked opponents in 2013 and will face another two this fall in Santa Clara and defending national champion, UCLA.  Juniper noted that that kind of experience is something that cannot be recruited.  He said he expects his veterans to contribute a great deal of playing time this season as they are well versed in games that come down to a few key moments.

Game Changers: Coming off of a winning 11-7-0 overall mark and a 6-2-0 record in conference, the Anteaters look to focus on the clutch moments in which games are decided.  Of UCI’s seven losses last season, five were decided by a single goal.  Irvine led the conference in shots on goal (49), shots per game (12.9) and overall shots (103) and look to continue to be a great offensive threat as they bolster their backline.  The team posted five shutouts last season and will work to further strengthen its defense in 2014.


(On tough nonconference schedule): “It’s like testing the plumbing.  You’ve built your house and then you have to put the plumbing under pressure and until you put it under extreme pressure you don’t know where the weak points are.”

(On goalkeepers Corey Tobin and Jennifer Randazzo):
“Their training environment is phenomenal because they both know they have a chance to play if they train well that week.  They know that the player who performs better Monday through Thursday is going to be the player standing between the pipes Friday night.”

(On new goalkeeper coach, Danielle de Seriere): “Danielle broke all kinds of records here: shutouts, appearances, Big West championships…and she wants to coach the goalkeepers to break all of her records.  That’s the mentality that she’s going to come in with.”

(On team’s philosophy): “Our philosophy is that when the whistle blows and the game starts we’ve already put all of the work in and we believe that if we do the right things, we can win the game.”  

(On three words to describe team):  “Competitive.  They’re competitive in everything that they do.  Inclusive is a word that comes up in a lot of our leadership council discussions.  And they’re just fun to be around.  They love what they do.”


2  Opponents that appear in the top 25 of the NSCAA preseason poll

5  Returning seniors heading into the 2014 season

7  Number of consecutive games at Anteater Stadium during three week home stand in September

13  Senior Laura McGrail’s career goal total

84  Scott Juniper’s career victories



altThe (Not So) New Sheriff In Town:
There’s a new man in charge at UC Irvine, yet he’s a familiar face to the program’s players and fans alike.  Chris Volk spent 17 years as lead assistant and goalkeeper coach for his predecessor George Kuntz, who accepted the head position at Big West rival Cal State Fullerton in December.  Volk, the 2008 NSCAA Far West Region Assistant Coach of the Year, has helped shape UCI’s success over the last six years – four regular season titles, four Big West Tournament championships and four trips to the NCAA Tournament, including two forays to the Sweet 16.  Volk is now the ultimate decision maker for the program.

The One Goal Hate/Love Affair:  Junior goalkeeper Michael Breslin has experienced the highs and lows of being the last line of defense as a two-year starter.  The Anteaters have played in 26 games decided by one goal over the last two seasons.  In 2012, UCI was just 2-11 in one goal games.  But the Anteaters flipped the result around last season, going 10-3 in the tight ones.  Volk cites that Breslin’s leadership will be key to UCI’s fortunes this year, along with the presence of his twin brother, Bryan, on the backline.

Versatile Cam: The Anteaters lost two of their top goal scorers in Enrique Cardenas and Christopher Santana, but Volk is excited about the return of senior Cameron Iwasa.  An All-Big West Honorable Mention selection in 2013, Iwasa scored a team second-best seven goals and he has 16 for his career.  His ability to play any of the front four positions gives UCI a strategic advantage in being able to exploit certain matchups, and experiment with different combinations on the field.

Roster Bolster: Senior Gor Kirakosyan missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury, but his return provides UCI added punch in the midfield.  He scored four goals and tied for the team lead with four assists in 2012.  The program also announced that CSU Bakersfield transfers Eduardo Calzada and Mario Ortiz joined the team recently.  Calzada led the Roadrunners in scoring last year with six goals and 14 points.  Ortiz, a midfielder who made TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Preseason Best XI Third Team, recorded five assists in 14 starts for CSUB in 2013.

Big Target: Coach Volk calls Lester “Tre” Hayes III “a known quantity in the conference and across the nation being one of the top target forwards.”  The 6-foot-5 player has been consistently productive his first three seasons in the program, producing four, three and four goals, respectively.


(On the team’s philosophy): “I think it is business as usual.  The character and work ethic of our program are things we’ve founded our success on, and I don’t see that changing.  The personnel will change a little bit with some new players, so I think that will give us a little bit of a different look.  But as far as our basic principles, and what we build our success around, isn’t going to change.”

(On Cameron Iwasa): “He leads by example.  I think others will follow as far as his effort and work ethic go.  He will keep other guys accountable, which he’s going to be kind of that coach on the field for us.  I think he’ll play a vital role in the success of our team this year.”

(On playing Cal State Fullerton, led by former UCI head coach George Kuntz): “We’re going to approach every match throughout the season with a game plan, and make sure that we’re well prepared.  Fullerton and UC Irvine has always been a good rivalry.  It just so happens to be that George is in charge of the Cal State Fullerton program now, and I’m in charge of the UC Irvine program.  I have the utmost respect for George.  I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, and when it gets down to game day, it’ll be our two teams competing against each other.  The coaches don’t compete against each other.  It’s the players.”

(On playing with expectations): “The bar is very high now.  The expectations are high.  Everyone associated with our program has to live up to what that standard is now.  We all take extreme responsibility with upholding the past success of the program and aspire, just like every other program in the country, to get that big prize and that’s a national championship.”

(On maintaining solid defensive play): “I think collectively as a team we’re going to have to defend well.  We will defend from the top to the back, and the back to the front.  Everybody has got to be on the same page and know what their role is defensively, and I think we did have some leadership with Tarek (Morad) and Marco (Franco) in the back, and looking for others to emerge and help solidify some leadership there.”


4  Big West Tournament championships for the Anteater program

10  Shutouts by goalkeeper Michael Breslin in 2013, tied for ninth-most in Big West history

13   Marco Franco’s selection by the Chicago Fire in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft

16  UC Irvine preseason ranking in the NSCAA poll

80   Total number of wins since 2008, most of any Big West program during six-year span



altAnteaters Take Hit To Roster: In 2014, the UC Irvine Anteaters will be playing without 2013 All-Big West Honorable Mention members middle blocker Shannon Fleming and outside hitter Aly Squires, who combined for 691 points, 35% of the team total, in 2013.  Along with the impressive point total, Fleming registered a conference-best .39 service ace average and ranked sixth in the Big West with 113 blocks, while Squires tallied 337 kills to also land the sixth spot in her respective category.

Ace In The Hole: Led by Shannon Fleming, UC Irvine posted a league-leading 1.49 service ace average in 2013.  Unfortunately, the Anteaters lost Fleming due to graduation, but two freshmen stood out and are primed to help the Anteaters pace the Big West once again.  A year ago Cassidy Pickrell ranked fourth with a .32 mark and Shelley Anderson grabbed the 10th spot with a .24 average.  Both Pickrell and Anderson were named to the 2013 All-Big West Freshman Team.

A Sneak Peek: The Anteaters travel out of the state of California for all three road tournaments this season, kicking off with the Cincinnati Tournament where they will battle host Cincinnati, Xavier and Duquesne.  They return home to host their lone nonconference tournament which features the always-tough Pepperdine Waves, along with Utah State, Army and Idaho.  New Mexico and Michigan are also preseason tournament stops for UC Irvine.  This year’s preseason schedule was designed to have UC Irvine battle very good teams with similar playing levels, according to Head Coach Paula Weishoff.

Challenging Final Stretch: UC Irvine needs to take advantage of playing four of its first five Big West contests at home by notching a few victories because the end of the season is anything but desirable.  The Anteaters close out the 2014 season playing six of their final seven contests on the road due to the lack of availability of their home facilities which resulted in the switching of some conference home-and-home series.  The only home contest in the month of November is the showdown against UC Riverside on Thursday, November 13.  UC Irvine was 4-9 on the road last year.

On The Rise: UC Irvine has shown improvement over the past two seasons as its 14 wins last year was three better than 2012 and a four-match improvement from the 2011 season. The Anteaters, who were just one win away from a .500 winning percentage in 2013, are in good position to continue their growth as they welcome back 13 players.


(On filling the void of offseason losses): “Marisa Bubica had a fabulous year last year and I think she was one of our best  players.  I don’t know kill wise if she was the highest, but I know that she is going to take a big load this season.  As a freshman Cassidy Pickrell was a big contributor last year and will continue to be.  We will see on the right side who fills in there but we have some options.”

(On the setter position): “We have back-to-back really good setters coming in to the program.  Shelley Anderson is returning and all spring she was our only setter so she got a ton of reps. Depending on the hitters we could be doing the 6-2 or the 5-1.  Right now we are just seeing who is healthy and what we can do.  We are going to put the best kids out there and figure out a lineup.”

(On the middle blocker position):  “We redshirted Danielle Geiger last year.  She is a middle blocker, and I would expect her to see some playing time this year.  Austin Potter coming in is another middle that I think could have a big impact.  And then Arielle Manz, who was not going to take her fifth redshirt year decided to come back so we are actually quite strong in the middle where at first we were a little worried that might be a tougher position for us.  I feel like we are actually stronger than we were last year.”

(On preseason schedule): “I think the preseason for us is more about us getting ready for conference.  Not so much the win-loss record but how can we get better to come into conference stronger.  In the past we have looked at preseason as we have to win this many to start conference, but I think the mentality of the girls is very different right now.  We had a great spring and they are more about what can we do to prepare for conference.  For us it is just about going out and getting better every day and not really worrying about the win-loss.  Of course you want to go into the conference season with more wins than losses but the girls, as we left the spring match, were more about getting ready for conference and coming in and battling.”

(On road match struggles): “One thing we talked about is winning on the road because that is one thing we need to be better at.  Most of the time our win record on the road isn’t as good as our win record at home.  Our girls are ready to embrace it and I think the mentality is a lot different this year.”


5  Length of UC Irvine’s season-opening win streak last year

6  New opponents UC Irvine faces in 2014

174  Service aces registered by the Anteaters in 2013 to lead the Big West Conference

691  Combined point total by Aly Squires and Shannon Fleming during their senior campaign in 2013

2009  The last time UC Irvine posted an overall record above .500