Eagles remain hopeful after GSAC tournament loss

After falling one win short of the championship, the Eagles focus on the upcoming National Tournament.
Melissa Hedrick/ THE CHIMES
Melissa Hedrick/ THE CHIMES

Although the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament came to a devastating end against the Vanguard University Lions on Nov. 12 in a 0-1 loss, the women’s soccer team continued to look ahead, hopeful of the possibility for greatness awaiting them in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament.

Nerves all around

“I think the biggest thing is that we played our toughest opponents, whether they were skillfully tough or just a team we always want to beat,” said Madyson Brown, sophomore midfielder. “I was so impressed with the way we trained the week prior and how intense practice was.”

As they did so many times during the regular season, the Eagles rode a one-goal lead to victory in the semifinals. Although the Westmont College Warriors put the pressure on the Eagles in the first period with nine shots in the first 20 minutes of the game, three saves from freshman goalkeeper Christina Rodriguez and a number of key blocks from the backline kept the game scoreless up to the brink of halftime.

“I think we were all more nervous going into the game against Westmont because they are a very talented team,” said Taylor Venegas, senior forward. “We came out lucky against Westmont the first time so we knew we would have to really be on our A-game.”

Adding to her three regular season goals, freshman forward Sarah Jeffries put the Eagles ahead with her first career goal in collegiate tournament play 40:13 into the first half. From there, the Eagles continued to stave off Westmont through regulation, advancing to the tournament finals.

Shortly after the Eagles’ victory over the Warriors, the Vanguard Lions won their own one-goal match against The Master’s University Mustangs. Two minutes into overtime, the Lions broke their 0-0 tie to beat the Mustangs 1-0 and advance to the championship against Biola.

Playing against Vanguard stirs up a whole different kind of emotions,” Venegas said. “We would definitely say that Vanguard is our rival school for women’s soccer. They frustrate us the most because their style of play is unlike any other team’s.”

Eagles meet their match

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ phenomenal defense met their match against the Lions with the championship on the line. With just under 20 minutes left in regulation, the Lions put the pressure on Biola with a goal at 71:40. Suddenly the Eagles shifted into survival mode as they attempted to score off seven shots and three corner kicks in the last 18 minutes of the game, but ultimately came up short. In the end, the Lions, led by their All-GSAC keeper, took home the GSAC championship with their 1-0 victory over the Eagles.

The Vanguard game was disappointing, not just because of the loss but because of our performance,” said Brianna Mikalson, junior defender. “We didn’t play the good quality soccer I know we have in us.”

In spite of their disappointing loss, the Eagles are hopeful as the No. 6 seed heading into their second consecutive NAIA National Tournament. With the chance to even the score with Vanguard who clinched a berth into the National Tournament, the Eagles kick off the tournament in the opening round against Northwest University on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. at Al Babour Field.

“I think, going into the NAIA National Tournament, having a single loss on our record is enough to spark us into a winning streak again,” Brown said. “Yes, we wanted [a] GSAC title and tournament title. But to get as far as possible in the national tournament would be the best goal accomplished. My team and I are so looking forward to this Saturday, especially to host. And we are believing the future holds great things for us.”

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Eagles remain hopeful after GSAC tournament loss