A bye into the Sweet 16 of NAIA men’s soccer just went bye-bye for Westmont College’s league.
The NAIA was forced to remove the Golden State Athletic Conference as the host and the Great Park of Irvine as the site of next season’s national tournament after the dates for the fall event were changed to May 4-10 because of the coronavirus.
The GSAC “was unable to work out a schedule with the Great Park for the new dates,” a league spokesperson explained.
The NAIA moved its national site to Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., although it did commit to returning to Great Park the following season to complete its three-year contract with the GSAC.
Westmont received a bye into last year’s Sweet 16 at Great Park after winning the league’s regular-season championship.
“We got passage right to the final site,” said Dave Wolf, who will be entering his 30th season as the Warriors’ coach when competition resumes. “No doubt, this has a heavy impact for our league.”
The 62nd annual Men’s Soccer National Championship will begin with the opening two rounds at 10 campus sites on April 22 and 24 before moving to Georgia for the final four rounds.
The NAIA also moved three other fall championships. Women’s soccer will hold its opening rounds on April 15-17 before moving to its national site in Foley, Ala. on April 27-May 3.
The national tournament for women’s volleyball will begin April 27 before moving to Sioux City, Iowa on April 27-May 1. The cross country championships for both men and women will be held on April 9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The NAIA still hopes to start men’s and women’s basketball season during the fall.
Westmont’s current plan is to resume in-person instruction on Sept. 28, with its soccer teams holding their first practices on Oct. 5.
“That’s the tentative timeline sent out to the coaching staff and players,” Wolf said. “But obviously, after having been through this for multiple months, we understand that maximum flexibility has to be built into everything we plan.”
He’s anxious to resume workouts after having graduated three All-Americans from last year’s team: center defender Tim Heiduk, goalkeeper Lalo Delgado, and midfielder Francisco Castro. Heiduk was voted GSAC Player of the year after the Warriors went 7-0-1 in league play and 13-3-1 overall.
“We had a terrific senior class,” Wolf said. “No doubt, we have some really incredible players to replace.”
Westmont does have a pair of All-GSAC players — leading scorer Tyler Young and center defender Zach Godeck, both from Buena High School — among its 17 returnees. Wolf has also added a recruiting class of 10 players.
“One thing you always want to do is keep your momentum going,” he said. “The pandemic has obviously disrupted that, but it has for everyone else, as well.
“Our roster is also going to look a lot different. I suppose it’s possible that the delay or postponement of the season may actually give your first-year players a little more acclimation time.”