Vanguard University has a knack for dealing particularly painful defeats in particularly meaningful games.
The Master’s University women’s soccer team entered Wednesday’s showdown of teams ranked in the NAIA’s top 10 with momentum, it left with a 3-1 home loss to the Lions, who beat the Mustangs three times last season.
The worst of those three, of course, came in the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament semifinals, when Master’s played the Lions to a scoreless tie through 90 minutes, then had its heart ripped out in overtime.
Vanguard (9-3, 5-0 in GSAC) wasted no such time Wednesday.
One minute, seven seconds into the game, Madison Lopp took a touch down the left side, deep in the Mustangs back third, and crossed it to Anna Montemor, who headed it high into the air and into the net.
The Lions added another goal nine minutes later.
“They punched us in the face and we didn’t rise to the occasion,” said Mustang coach Curtis Lewis.
Master’s did rise for a moment, though, as senior Kellian Ahearn leapt off the turf and one-timed a Sarah Stead pass into the net to cut the deficit to one in the 36th minute.
Vanguard, intent on squashing the Mustangs’ four-game winning streak, earned a penalty kick exactly two minutes later and took a commanding, all but smothering, 3-1 lead into the break.
“You can’t go down (like that) and expect to win soccer games,” Lewis said. “It’s not a reality.”
The reality the Mustangs (11-2, 4-1) now face is a steep, but not impossible, climb in the GSAC standings. They trail both Vanguard and Westmont – by three and one points, respectively – but have a track record this season of following a harsh loss with impressive play.
On Sept. 14, Master’s lost 4-0 to Ottawa University from Kansas. The Mustangs then reeled off a quartet of conference wins, two coming on the road.
Where will they go from here?
“Ultimately, I feel like this is the best team I’ve been a part of,” Ahearn said, “and I know we’re going to come back better.”
The Mustangs, certainly, were better after halftime Wednesday, holding the Lions without a goal, connecting passes and creating a handful of scoring opportunities, one off the crossbar.
Lacey Lehman made six second-half saves for Master’s.
“Second half, we had the energy and the desire more,” said Mustang Jasmine Parada. “… I think we should have figured it out earlier.”
The Mustangs will host Hope International at Reese Field on Saturday. Game time is 11 a.m.