A tough matchup in the NAIA National Men’s Soccer Opening Round led to an early exit for Westmont College as it lost to Corban, Ore., 2-1, at Thorrington Field on Thursday.
“I thought they were the best team we played this year,” Warriors coach Dave Wolf said. “They were not only individually talented and gifted, but also well organized and well coached. Stylistically, I thought they were very good.”
The win puts Corban (9-1-1) into a second-round match on Saturday against Central Methodist, Mo., which blanked UC Merced 2-0.
Westmont (7-2-1) stayed with Corban throughout the match, tying the score at 1-all during the 54th minute of the second half. After a couple of near misses by Wyatt Babineau and Michael Palmer, the Warriors finally broke through on Jona Romero’s free kick from near the left touchline. Memo Mendoza, a junior from Santa Barbara High, angled toward the ball and headed it past Corban goalkeeper Justin Keegan.
“We scrapped our way back into the game in the second half and, obviously, got it to 1-1 through a great service and an outstanding header,” Wolf said. “I was really pleased with the group we started in the second half, many of whom were reserves.
“They helped us get a little bit of a foothold in the game. It was a more evenly played second half.”
Nate Sherwood’s corner kick led to Corban’s first goal with barely a minute left before halftime. The service found Tristan Erispe seven yards out from the goal. He drove the ball toward the right post and Carlos Llamosa redirected it into the net.
“I thought in the first half we were chasing ghosts,” Wolf said. “They dominated us in every aspect of the game. We were second-best and fortunate to only be down one goal at halftime.”
Yuki Onishi scored Corban’s game-winner on Jose Peralta’s assist during the 61st minute on a shot from the top of the 18-yard box.
Westmont’s best opportunities for an equalizing goal included Sam Tuscano’s rip from the left side that went just wide in the 71st minute.
The Warriors also got a pair of headers off corner kicks during the final two minutes after a red card had forced Corban to play a man down. Keegan punched the first header by Owen Bates over the crossbar, while the second header by Michael Palmer sailed wide left.
“We started training in the end of September and we are still going at almost the end of May,” Wolf said, noting how the COVID-19 delayed the start of the season. “It has been some kind of ride.”
Wolf ends his 30th season with a record of 348-164-55 (.662).