It had been nearly two months since the Westmont men’s soccer team lost a match.
Even then, on Sept. 19, it was a setback to Division I Cal Poly.
Not once this season had the Warriors dropped a match to a fellow National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics team.
Not until Wednesday.
Behind goals by John Kanner, Hazem Sobhy and Cristian Gennaro, the Ottawa University Spirit of Arizona smashed Westmont, 3-0, in the semifinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament at Westmont’s Thorrington Field.
The Warriors entered the game with a 13-1-1 record and a guaranteed spot in the Round of 16 in the NAIA national tournament in Irvine. In other words, the stunning home loss did nothing to hurt Westmont with the national tournament. Even if the Warriors won the GSAC Tournament, they would still be in the same spot as they are following Wednesday’s loss.
None of that, though, made the loss to the Spirit any easier for Westmont coach Dave Wolf to stomach.
The Warriors trailed 2-0 at halftime, and their handful of quality chances in the second half were all turned away.
“What I said to the guys at halftime was, ‘There was an urgent team in the first half and an arrogant team in the first half,’” Wolf said. “You could tell the difference. I was really, really disappointed in the mentality of the group, and I share in the disappointment myself in terms of the preparation piece.
“I’ve been wondering for a while what was the mentality going to look like in a postseason game that we didn’t have to win to advance. The first half, I got my answer.”
Westmont paid for a defensive breakdown in the 24th minute when Kanner was left open at the back post to score on a right-footed shot off a set piece.
The Warriors were unlucky on the Spirit’s second goal — a hard shot from the top of the 18-yard box that deflected off Westmont center back Tim Heiduk and flew inside the left post.
Things got even worse for the home side in the 66th minute when Gennaro broke into the attacking end on a counterattack, got Warriors goalkeeper Lalo Delgado off his line, and finished into a wide open net for a 3-0 lead.
Because of its body of work throughout the season, Westmont very much deserves to be in the NAIA Round of 16, which begins next week. But Wolf expressed an obvious measure of disappointment at the effort of his team, and the result against a side the Warriors defeated, 2-0, on Oct. 31.
“It wasn’t good, it wasn’t good,” Westmont’s 29th-year coach said. “I think there was a response. It looked more like us in the second half, but we were chasing it at that point.”
Wolf was asked if OUAZ’s second goal that deflected off Heiduk was one that changed the complexion of the match.
“If we’re being fair to (the Spirit) — and I give them a lot of credit. They wanted the game more than we did and I thought they executed beautifully. They deserve a lot of credit — but we’ve gotten some deflection goals this year, too.
“Today, Ok, yeah, it’s a piece of good fortune for them. But they made their luck today with how well they played. Their quality coupled with what I thought was a poor mentality from our group out of the gate, was costly for us today.”
Despite leading 2-0 at the break, Spirit coach Matt Gow was a long way from putting it in the win column.
“It shows the amount of respect that we have for Westmont,” he said. “We’re up 2-0 at halftime and we’re saying, ‘Hey, this thing’s not even close to being over. This is a good team.’ Our guys played a complete game for probably the first time all season.
“I can truly say that was a complete 90-minute performance.”
Westmont will host the GSAC title game on Friday, when OUAZ (13-5-1) takes on Menlo, which defeated Vanguard, 3-1, in the other semifinal.
As for the Warriors, it is time to regroup and reset for the NAIA national championship tournament.
“One of the things I said to my coaches on the sideline is, ‘It’s really hard to push the reset button unless you lose,’” Wolf said. “It’s really hard to push the reset button while you’re winning. We haven’t lost in two months.
“This is where I have to question myself a little bit in terms of my leadership of the group. Could I have seen it and pushed the reset button even while we were winning? I don’t know the answer to that question, but certainly it’s a question I’m asking myself at this point.”