IRVINE — While the high-powered Texas A&M offense didn't disappoint, host UC Irvine used some good fortune and the Ran-dazzling play of its 5-foot-4 junior goalkeeper to come away with a scoreless tie in a women's soccer exhibition contest Wednesday night.
Jennifer Randazzo, who made seven saves in a 1-0 victory at Texas A&M in her freshman debut in 2011, had seven more saves Wednesday, including two diving stops. She also bolted from her line to negate a handful of attacks by the No. 12-ranked Aggies, who returned their top four scorers from last year's 19-5-1 unit (with 31 goals among them).
"Phenomenal," was how UCI Coach Scott Juniper assessed the play of Randazzo, who had plenty of help from her defense, as well as the soccer gods. "Maybe it's something about [Randazzo] playing against Texas A&M."
The rest of the Anteaters didn't so much play against the Aggies as battle against humiliation, as the visitors posted a 12-3 shot advantage in the first half and wound up with a 15-5 edge in that department.
Randazzo made six saves before intermission as the visitors, whose 48 goals last season nearly doubled UCI's total of 25 from 2012, showed their superiority, particularly in the opening moments.
"With a very, very talented team like Texas A&M coming in, you need to be ready for a big game," Juniper said. "We weren't ready for a big game. We were ready for a preseason game. We went out there in the first half and we got bullied."
The Aggies used their superior size, passing accuracy, and propensity to send the ball forward to consistently shred the UCI defense.
The most haunting of chances for the Aggies came in the 29th minute, when Shea Groom directed a deft cross from just outside the right post into the middle of the six-yard box. Junior Annie Kunz, who led the Aggies with 13 goals as a sophomore, ran onto the ball and chose a chip, rather than a full swing. But she got too far under the ball, which sailed high over the open net, allowing the UCI rooters yet another sigh of relief.
Two would-be Texas A&M goals, one in each half, were disallowed due to offsides calls.
Two additional shots bound for somewhere inside the frame went off UCI defenders and caromed off the cross bar and goal post, respectively.
Senior Natalia Ledezma came to Randazzo's aid at the goal line on one of these shots, leaping to head the ball off the cross bar. Ledezma, who along with fellow backliners Jordan Bruce, Haley O'Brien and Clarissa Robles earned praise from Randazzo and Juniper for their play, led the Anteaters with two shots.
Texas A&M shooters misfired on at least a handful of additional shots at an open net.
"In a game like this, the score really is not the important thing," Juniper said. "But you have to give Texas A&M credit. [It] won the game in terms of possession and opportunities on goal. On another day, we could have been embarrassed."
Added Randazzo: "We were lucky [to get the 0-0 deadlock, which did not include the normal two 10-minute overtime periods, per mutual agreement by the coaches]. I think this was a learning experience. As a team and as individuals, we'll try to see the things we did well and the things we did poorly and just move forward and try to get better."
Juniper called three of the Aggies' forwards "top, top class," who are on the verge of being national team players.
"It took so much out of us today, emotionally and physically just to defend the kind of physicality they brought to the game," Juniper said. "I don't think that we had any cognitive capacity left to make the decisions that we needed to make."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun