In case you haven’t heard, UC Irvine men’s soccer is back in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years, with their highest ever seeding–No. 8 nationally. After a first round bye, UCI has drawn the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the second round, which will go down on Sunday at 6 p.m. in Irvine.

The athletic website has a pretty good recap of everything from past tournament endeavors to common opponents of the Anteaters and Gaels, specifically noting that this Gaels team has 12 members who were on the 2009 Tournament team that lost to Stanford 3-0 in the first round. Of course, that was the same Stanford team who went on to upset UC Irvine in the second round. This year, Saint Mary’s beat No. 25 Cal State Bakersfield 1-0 in the first round, setting up this alternate universe match from 2009. The Gaels only went 9-6-5 this year, but finished strong after a 1-3-3 start.

On to some more interesting tidbits.

  • What is a gael? In the dictionary, the definition is straight-forward: a person whose ancestors spoke Gaelic. Basically, the nickname is akin to the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame or some other reference to people from Ireland. But it gets better. Rumor has it that famous sportswriter Grantland Rice nicknamed Saint Mary’s the Gaels due to the number of Irish players on the basketball team. Prior to then, the school’s mascot had been the Saints.
  • Rumor has it that junior Saint Mary’s defender Trevor Newquist was recruited by UC Irvine… for men’s basketball. After being named WCC All-Freshman team and WCC Honorable Mention Team for two straight years, I’m guessing Newquist thinks he made the right choice.
  • The Gael fanbase is invading Steelhead Brewing Company before the game from 4-6 p.m., so you know that they will have a pretty strong group on hand at Anteater Stadium. Now is the time to support our Anteaters as they attempt to go where no UCI men’s soccer team has gone before.
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