Homecoming trifecta

Jacob Norling, Staff Writer

The Westmont men’s soccer team’s all-season dominant run continued in a grand fashion on Saturday, as for the first time since 2016, the Warriors were able to defeat the Vanguard Lions. The Warriors put up three goals in the first half and never looked back, ultimately picking up their sixth shutout of the season by the final score of 3-0. After picking up two wins on the road to begin GSAC play, the men started off their home slate of conference play by picking up their third win in as many games.

The No. 4-ranked Warriors lead the way in the GSAC early on, as after three games, they are the only undefeated team in league play. The other ranked team in the conference, Menlo, has already dropped two of its first three contests. Westmont will look to keep its foot on the gas pedal in conference play as the GSAC regular season champion gets an automatic bid to the Round of 16 in the NAIA National Tournament.

On Saturday, it appeared that over the first 10 minutes or so, the men were playing scrappier than usual, adjusting to a change in the lineup with sophomore Sam Tuscano playing as the center attacking midfielder. The Warriors found their footing, however, in the 13th minute when senior Christian Webb’s beautiful cross found Tuscano and then the back of the net, giving the team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The Warriors offensively put on an absolute clinic at the end of the first half, tripling their lead in less than 30 seconds. In the 41st minute, junior Jona Romero — who has played with a newfound confidence all season — gave a perfect pass to sophomore Owen Bates, who drilled his shot home for his first goal of the season in a game that was Bates’ best performance all season. A mere 23 seconds later, senior Lucky Puengrod delivered the highlight of his season so far by putting on a one-man show, dribbling past a handful of defenders and rocketing the ball into the back of the net.

As fans have come to expect, the defense was relentless in its pursuit of a clean sheet as Tim Heiduk and Zach Godeck did their part to aid Lalo Delgado, who had five saves. It was Delgado’s 20th career shutout at Westmont, which is seventh all-time for a Warrior goalkeeper.

The Warriors’ defense is one of the most formidable in the NAIA, hence the No. 4 ranking. But at the end of the day, those who pay attention know the biggest question mark of this team is the attack. On Saturday, it appeared that something clicked with Owen Bates and Lucky Puengrod. Now, pair those two with breakout star Tyler Young.

Good luck, GSAC.