If you have been paying attention in the slightest, you know soccer fans are spoiled here at Westmont College. This year is lining up to be special, for not one but both of our soccer programs on campus, as our men’s and women’s teams enter Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) play with top ten NAIA national rankings. Both teams will enter GSAC play with six wins and only one loss, with the women having an additional tie, taking away from otherwise identical records.
For the men, they did something no team in their program’s history has ever done, starting off 6-0. They enter their first week of GSAC play ranked No. 5 in the nation in the latest NAIA Coaches poll. Westmont is one of three GSAC teams currently ranked, while two others are receiving votes.
With conference play slated at a mere eight games, captain Tim Heiduk stressed, “We’re going to have to treat every game like a final.” The winner of the GSAC men’s regular season will punch their ticket automatically to the round of 16 in the NAIA National Tournament. Expect that to be within reach, and along those lines, expect every game to feel like a postseason matchup.
On the women’s side, first-year head coach Jenny Jaggard and the team dropped their first match of the season, and have looked unbeatable since. Following the opening day loss, the women rattled off six consecutive wins, including the improbable 3-0 upset over then No.1 William Carey (Miss.). That winning streak and a tie against No. 15 Mobile (Ala.) propelled the team twelve spots in the rankings, up to No. 10 in the NAIA as they head into GSAC play.
Star goalkeeper Gabi Haw spoke to the squad’s confidence, saying that the team’s trip to Georgia “instilled the passion and drive we need to be a team that goes all the way.”
The women’s team has proven to be a group of Westmont’s greatest protagonists with their inspiring start to the year. One highlight is the story of senior Brooke Porter, who is finally playing in her first season as a Warrior, having missed her first three due to injuries. Porter scored three goals in her first three games, making up one for each year missed.
We are spoiled soccer fans at Westmont College. How many schools can claim two iconic keepers, such as Lalo Delgado and Gabi Haw, who have a combined nine shutouts? How many schools get ambassadors of such high caliber like senior captains Maddi Berthoud and Heiduk, who look to ride into the sunset on top? And how many schools are getting this much help in the back line from freshmen such as Taylie Scott and Justin Nakaoka?
The stars are aligning for all our soccer stars at Westmont: for Tyler Young and Bri Johnson; for Pancho Castro and Teagan Mayte; for Coach Dave Wolf in his 29th year, and Coach Jaggard in her first. Something special is happening here; don’t blink.