“Get it out of here!”
The gameplan was obvious for the Vanguard University women’s soccer team — don’t let Westmont get into any sort of offensive rhythm.
And it worked — as the 11th-ranked Lions shocked eighth-ranked Warriors, 1-0, to win the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title.
“That’s how we play, we play direct and they play a possession game,” Vanguard defender Myranda Baca said. “We couldn’t let them find the room to play their game. We did that. We deserved to win this game.”
Baca didn’t just make her impact on the defensive side of the field, as the senior also tallied the game’s only goal in the 49th minute.
After the Lions streaked down the right side of the field, they earned a corner kick. Esmy Burgos took the corner, with Baca heading it into the upper left corner, just over the outstretched hand of Westmont goalie Gabi Haw.
Vanguard took only four shots all game — all in the second half — but managed to use a set piece to its advantage, something that Westmont coach Jenny Jaggard says her young team will have to learn from.
Westmont had 19 shots, forcing seven saves.
“You can be the better team all game long, but one moment can change the outcome,” Jaggard said. “A set piece at any point of a close game like this can change the outcome. Unfortunately, it did that to us today.”
Vanguard did very little attacking after Baca’s goal, adding an extra defensive midfielder to assure that Westmont could not find any passing lanes for the final 40-plus minutes.
Baca pointed to Westmont’s 3-0 thumping of the Lions earlier this season as a turning point, not only in seeking revenge against the Warriors, but also opening the team’s eyes to what they needed to improve upon if they wanted to improve.
“It humbled us,” Baca said. “It was a tough loss, we took it hard. But then we came closer together as a group. We worked harder, we got better. And you can see that today.”
Both teams were assured of spots in the NAIA Tournament, which will begin next weekend. Both teams will host a game, something that Jaggard took solace in.
“It’s easier to coach a game like this when you know it’s not the end for your girls, especially the seniors, this would have been heart-wrenching if that was the case,” Jaggard said. “We can learn from this, get better and still have a chance to show that this season.”
Jaggard knows that she has a young team on her hands, and did believe that the pressures of playing from behind in the postseason will help the Warriors get better, now and into the future.
“When you head into that last 10 minutes, you have to realize that there is still lots of soccer left, that it just takes a moment,” Jaggard said. “You have to learn how to take that breath and not lose track of who you are. We will learn from that, this can be a blessing in disguise if we do take the lesson.”