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Former reserves power inspired UC Irvine
by Paul Kennedy, September 12th, 2011 8:21PM

TAGS:  college men


[TOP 25 SPOTLIGHT] Snubbed by NCAA tournament selectors last November after going 14-3-3 and winning the Big West regular-season title, UC Irvine is trying to leave no doubt about their 2011 postseason credentials. The Anteaters, ranked 10th in this week's Soccer America Men's Top 25, are the only Division I men's team to go 6-0-0 after three weeks. It marks the first time in school history UCI has won its first six matches.

The Anteaters completed their third weekend sweep when they beat Wisconsin, 3-2, in overtime and rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 down to beat UIC, 4-2, on their Midwest swing

What makes UCI's early success all the more remarkable is that Coach George Kuntz had to almost completely rework his lineup.

Only four starters from the team that fell to Cal State Fullerton in the 2010 Big West semifinals played Sunday in the win over UIC in Chicago.

Former reserves have stepped into key role.

Enrique Cardenas, who scored three times over the weekend, started only one game as a red-shirt freshman in 2010.

Christian Hernandez, who shares the UCI scoring lead with Cardenas with five goals, started just six games last season after transferring from JC power Taft.

Starting defender Jonathan Rivas made one appearance for the 'Eaters as a JC transfer in 2010.

UCI's only four-year starters are goalie Andrew Fontein, who made the Soccer America All-Freshman team in 2008, and Jimmy Turner.

If strength of schedule might have hurt UCI last season, it is making sure its 2011 schedule will work in its favor. The Anteaters head back on the road this weekend, this time to Tampa, where they will face FGCU and USF.

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