Warriors fall in GSAC title game, earn at-large berth into nationals

Jacob Norling, Staff Writer

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The Westmont women’s soccer team finished the regular season in a deadlock atop the GSAC standings with the Vanguard Lions, with both squads finishing the regular season slate at 7-1. Since the lone loss for the Lions came at the hands of Westmont back on Oct. 12, a 3-0 win for Westmont, the road to the GSAC championship was destined to come through Thorrington Field and the Warriors themselves.

Entering the final weekend of the GSAC Tournament, with the semis and finals taking place at Westmont, there was no doubt that the two best teams in the conference were on a collision course to break the deadlock left at the conclusion of the regular season. The Warriors successfully defended home field on Thursday as they sent OUAZ packing with a 2-0 win, with a Maddi Berthoud goal and a Spirit’s own goal proving to be the difference. The win came hours after Vanguard ensured the same fate, having successfully fended off The Master’s by a final score of 1-0.

When the championship game went into halftime 0-0, it was clear these two defensive juggernauts were as formidable as they come, and not a single person would have been surprised if the game went into a shootout to decide the tournament. So when the Lions struck only a handful of minutes into the second half, scoring on a Myranda Baca header, not a soul thought that would be the final goal of the GSAC season, but much to the dismay of the home fans at Thorrington field, it was.

Somehow, the Vanguard defense stood tall, keeping the Warriors out of the net, as the clock ticked down slowly but surely in the final forty minutes. You could sense the disbelief, as all in attendance assumed a Warriors team that averaged well over three goals per game during the season would at least tally an equalizer. But that equalizer never came, as the day simply belonged to the Lions.

While the clock struck zero in the GSAC title match, the clock hasn’t quite struck midnight on the Westmont season just yet. Westmont, having held a top-ten ranking for weeks now, has earned the right to have one last shot on Thorrington Field, as the Warriors will host the Opening Round of the NAIA National Tournament on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Westmont, the seventh overall seed in the tournament, will play the winner between Oregon Tech and Marymount with the opportunity to advance to the final site in Orange Beach, Alabama.

So don’t go anywhere just yet. This is a squad with a first-year coach that has lost only three games all season. This team has reigning GSAC Players of the Year Bri Johnson and Gabi Haw. This team has found a way to make fans believe time and time again all season long.

So to the Westmont Warriors: hold onto that faith, because it’s contagious. Most of all, enjoy the ride. Someday you’ll look back and want this all again, so I hope it’s because you did something special the rest of the season.