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Daily Pilot

Colleges: 'Eaters closing strong

By Barry Faulkner

10:08 PM PDT, October 22, 2012

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Among the UC Irvine women's soccer team's greatest attributes is a sense of urgency.

After a 4-7 start against a brutal schedule that included a nine-game, 39-day stint without a home game earlier in the season, Coach Scott Juniper's two-time-defending Big West Conference regular-season champions have a chance at a three-peat.

After a dramatic 1-0 double-overtime win at Long Beach State on Saturday, UCI is 5-1-1 in conference play. Its 16 standings points (three for a win and one for a tie) leave it tied for second with Cal State Northridge, one point behind Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

UCI plays host to Northridge on Friday at 7 p.m., then closes out the regular season with another Big West home game against Hawaii on Sunday.

Northridge visits Long Beach State (4-3 in conference) on Sunday after the 49ers play host to Hawaii on Friday.

Cal State Fullerton (5-2 in conference) is at UC Davis on Friday and at Pacific on Sunday.

Cal Poly (5-1-2 in conference) plays its lone conference game this week at home against UC Santa Barbara on Sunday.

Two UCI wins would give it a third straight regular-season conference crown, as well as the No. 1 seed in the four-team conference tournament. The tournament, in which UCI has lost in the title match the last two seasons to Long Beach State, will be played at UCI on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.

That sense of urgency has seen UCI score five goals in between the 80th and 90th minutes of regulation this season. Seven of the 'Eaters' 24 goals have come in those final 10 minutes of regulation, or in overtime. That's 29.2%.

It could be argued that defense is leading the way for UCI, as it has allowed just 19 shots on goal in seven conference matches. That defense does not bully opponents, as UCI's 8.3 fouls per match are the fewest of any conference team.

UCI is 20-2-2 in its last 24 conference games, dating back to the end of the 2009 regular season.

UCI's win Saturday was its fourth straight regular-season triumph over the 49ers, who are 0-5-1 against UCI in regular-season meetings since 2006. UCI has outscored The Beach, 8-0, in their last six regular-season meetings.

The Vanguard University women's soccer team (12-2, 8-0 in the Golden State Athletic Conference) was No. 9 in the NAIA poll that will be updated Tuesday.

Coach Randy Dodge's Lions have won eight straight and have outscored opponents, 23-1, during the streak.

Vanguard, led by Arizona JC transfer Jordan Davidson who has 12 goals and six assists, has outscored foes, 41-6, this season.

The Lions visit San Diego Christian on Wednesday, before closing out the regular season against No. 13-ranked Westmont (11-3-1, 7-1) on Saturday at home.

The GSAC Tournament begins Oct. 30 with the final set for Nov. 9.

After halting a 10-game winless streak with a 2-1 Big West win over Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 13, the UCI men's soccer team has lost two straight and is in serious peril of missing the four-team conference tournament.

With three conference matches left, UCI (4-11-1, 1-6 in conference) can still finish in the top two of the conference's four-team South Division, which would mean a Big West Tournament berth.

Northridge leads the division with 15 points, followed by Fullerton (seven) and UC Riverside (six). UCI finishes at Cal State Fullerton (Saturday), at home against Riverside on Oct. 31 and at Northridge on Nov. 3.

The local college basketball season tips off Thursday at 7:30 p.m., when the Vanguard men play host to Menlo College.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5