By JACOB NORLING
WESTMONT COLLEGE WRITER
The Westmont men’s soccer team (2-2) started slow on offense in the first 30 minutes of play, then exploded to defeat Bethesda (3-1-1) 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon.
For Coach Dave Wolf, it was his 350th career win.
Today, he could see his 351st victory when Westmont heads to San Diego to take on Point Loma. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
In the first 20 minutes of play during Wednesday’s game, there was one shot on goal between the two clubs. The one shot came off the foot of Bethesda’s Jeremy Danif and directly into the hands of Westmont keeper Abraham Arteaga.
Westmont possessed the ball in the Bethesda eighteen for a total of one play through the first 20 minutes, and the play resulted in an offside call immediately upon arrival in the box.
In the 30th minute, Westmont finally got its break. After a half hour of zero offense, Mathew Morgan checked in to play left back. Exactly 15 seconds later, Morgan made his mark when the Warriors mounted an attack on the far side of the field that culminated in a cross off of Morgan’s left foot.
On the receiving end was freshman Spencer Crithfield on top of the six-yard box, and Crithfield directed the ball with one touch to the back of the net. For Crithfield, it was the first goal of his collegiate career.
“Matthew Morgan was the man of the match,” said Wolf. “In training yesterday, he served in a couple of delightful balls, and just had this look about him. It was not a surprise to see him recreate that success in the game today.
“Then for Spencer, he has worked hard since the day he arrived on campus. He has shown the ability to be dangerous, but the question has been about whether or not he would be a finisher. It made me so happy today to see him get one because we think he has a big upside, and hopefully this helps him move in that direction.”
Westmont had only one other shot on goal during the first half, one that was not truly threatening, but regardless the club led 1-0 at the half. Arteaga made two saves during the half as Westmont’s defense, led by Zach Godeck, kept the Flames at bay.
Five minutes into the second half, Westmont was given a free kick on the near side of the field, even with the eighteen. Aldo Becerril quickly played the ball to Landon Amaral, who served a ball inside the six. From there, the ball was deflected off of a pair of Flames, before finding its way to Michael Palmer.
With one touch, Palmer found the back of the net for his first collegiate goal, and Westmont’s second of the day.
“Michael showed some real character today after not being in the starting eleven,” said Wolf. “He was ready to go when called upon and that turned out to be a very important goal for us.”
Minutes later, the ‘Matthew Morgan game’ continued. After the Bethesda defense fended off a pair of shots by Samuel Tuscano, the ball found Morgan once again on the near side of the field. Then came the most beautiful goal of the Westmont season thus far, when Morgan hooked a cross to find Tuscano in full stride on the far side of the six.
Tuscano immediately buried his second goal of the season and sprinted to celebrate with his bench, who was equally excited for Morgan as they were for Tuscano.
“Right before Matt went in today,” began Wolf, “I told him ‘if you have the chance to whip a couple balls in, we’ll have the numbers in the box for you.’ He showed he was ready for the moment, and I think that second ball to Sam was even better than the first to Spencer. In every way, Matt was the match winner for us today.”
“Then on Sam’s end, when he gets a chance you get on the edge of your seat because you feel like he’s going to bury it. He’s always had the talent, but I think the mindset is in the best place we have ever seen it. When you put mind and talent together, you have an elite attacking player and that’s what we have right now.”
In the 71st minute, Bethesda got on the board when they were awarded a penalty kick after a foul inside the Warrior box. On the ensuing shot, Vitor Luiz Pereira Gameiro drilled it past Brady Highfill to get the Flames on the board with a hair under 20 minutes to play.
The flames made things all the more interesting in the 79th minute when Victor Malaquias shot a perfect cross to Paul Lorenzana that the striker headed into the net to pull Bethesda within one.
“There were some issues down the stretch regarding game management,” noted Wolf. “There were a couple things that happened during that stretch that we did not handle very well or we were too late to turn the page on. They have a lot of talented players and they made that a tight match.”
While the Flames saved their best punch for the final third of the match, the Warriors were able to drain the clock for the final 11 minutes and seal the 3-2 win, and the 350th victory for Wolf.
“Most of all, milestones like that mean you’ve had a lot of good players and coaches around you,” reflected Wolf. “I’ve been blessed to have Johnny, Tovi and Rudy by my side and we have had a great partnership. They make so many decisions that put us in a position to succeed and I am honored to be able to share this win, like all others, with them today. It’s a special day.”
With 350 wins, Wolf has the fifth-most all time amongst active coaches in the NAIA.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.