Punching their ticket

Jacob Norling, Staff Writer

The No. 4 Westmont men’s soccer team capped off a magical regular season this weekend the only way they knew how: in dominant fashion. With a pair of wins, 2-0 over Ottawa (Arizona) and 5-1 over Arizona Christian, the Warriors finished the GSAC regular season undefeated with a 7-0-1 record (13-1-1 overall), a feat not accomplished since 1989. While the latter of the two wins was special because it was Senior Day at Thorrington Field, the former of the two will be remembered for years, as the victory over OUAZ is one that officially clinched the GSAC regular season championship for the Warriors and punched their ticket into the Round of 16 in the NAIA National Tournament.

On Thursday, the Warriors’ victory was made possible by junior forward Tyler Young’s first half goal, his team-leading ninth of the season, and Lalo Delgado, who made one of his more spectacular saves of the year to maintain the one-goal lead. Then, in one of the more electrifying moments of the season, junior forward Jose Vasquez put the game on ice with his first goal of the season. The Warriors then cruised up 2-0 and rode their dominant defense and goalkeeping to victory.

Following the win, the Warriors hung out on Thorrington field for about twenty minutes and then officially received word that the second-place Vanguard Lions lost their match, making it official that the Warriors clinched the GSAC and sending the men into a frenzy. Then, the team was allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labor as the players sprayed water bottles all over themselves, and drenched assistant coach Johnny Whallon with a Gatorade shower. The celebration did not end there, as the team celebrated moments later in the locker room with a Martinelli’s shower, which hopefully isn’t the last time they get to do so.

Two days later on Senior Day, the pair Westmont seniors Lucky Puengrod and Tim Heiduk were able to give the fans a couple of feel-good moments to cap off the regular season as they put the Warriors up 2-0 early and never looked back. Owen Bates scored two goals to give Westmont a 4-0 halftime lead. Sam Tuscano added a penalty kick goal to round out the scoring. When the final whistle blew on Saturday to finalize the Warriors’ 5-1 win, they became the first Westmont team to finish undefeated in GSAC play since 1989.

Now the men will host the GSAC Tournament semifinals and finals at Thorrington Field next Wednesday and Friday. Regardless of that outcome, the team knows that beginning on Monday, Dec. 2, it’ll be suited up at the NAIA Final Site in Irvine with a mere four wins between them and athletic intercollegiate immortality: a national championship.

Teams like this do not come around often and if you possess so much as an ounce of pride for Westmont College, there is no better team to get behind than this one. They represent the grit, loyalty, and heart of this entire campus, honoring both their current peers and those who came before them. 

Next month, this team has a chance to cement itself as one of the greatest sports teams to ever call 955 La Paz Road their home, and I promise you that you won’t regret tuning in to the climax and conclusion of this incredible story.

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