November 8, 2017
The Mustangs’ season isn’t necessarily over. Their resolve-trying trilogy with Westmont College is, though.
The final installment – a Golden State Athletic Conference semifinal at host Vanguard in Costa Mesa – again didn’t go TMU’s way Wednesday, as it lost 1-0 despite controlling the second half.
No. 15 Master’s (14-5-1), which will now have to hope for an at-large bid when the NAIA releases its bracket Monday, outshot No. 9 Westmont 10-1 after the break, but that one shot mattered.
Jackie Lopez scored the game-winner in the 47th minute. Mustang Victoria Gama put a dangerous shot near frame down the stretch, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, it was another instance of Master’s fixing mistakes and playing better than it had in its previous meeting with Westmont (14-3-1), but still losing.
On Oct. 14, Master’s lost 5-2 in Santa Barbara, but felt it had played the Warriors much closer than the scoreboard showed.
On Oct. 28, the Mustangs built a two-goal, second-half lead, but the Warriors surged back to win in overtime on Reese Field.
Wednesday, the Mustangs mostly contained the Warriors but miscommunicated on one play in the back third, and, boom, Westmont made them pay.
“They come at us for the full 90 minutes,” said TMU defender Laura English. “We can slip up one time and they capitalize.”
English’s strong play on the back line has helped shore up a unit that’s been mixed and matched most of the season.
English, All-GSAC pick Kayla Peterson and Gianna Crimi have given the Mustangs a cohesive core over the last few games. The Mustangs shut out Arizona Christian last week in the GSAC quarterfinals and held off a furious attack by Westmont in the early going Wednesday.
TMU keeper Kaylee Poffek did her part with five saves, one on a diving effort in the first half.
“A fantastic save,” said coach Curtis Lewis.
Lewis remained hopeful that the Mustangs would receive an at-large bid to the NAIA national tournament Monday morning when the field is announced.
Mustang players were similarly optimistic.
“Our hopes are pretty high,” said senior Taylor Rowden. “We’ve had a really stellar season, and our rankings are still good. … We’re still recovering from the game, but we still have hope.”
In terms of a resume, the Mustangs’ is impressive. Master’s was 12th in the most recent Modified Ratings Percentage Index, a factor in picking the national tournament field, and all its losses have come against teams ranked in the top 13 of the coaches’ poll.
Master’s is the only team to beat No. 6 Keiser (Florida) this season.
“If we do get an opening round game, it’s not going to be against a top 10 team,” Lewis said. “That will give us an opportunity to get our feet back under us. If we win that opening game, then we’ll face those top 10 teams again. We’ve shown that we can hang. We just need our offense and defense to show up on the same day. If we can put that together, I think we can make a run.”