At the turn of the millennium, Westmont College was in the midst of a historic, five-year run of four NAIA National Women’s Soccer Championships.
The Warriors have their sights set on the top again now that they’re playing host to a four-team, NAIA Opening Round regional tournament at Thorrington Field.
Westmont (7-4), champion of the Golden State Athletic Conference and ranked ninth in the latest NAIA national poll, was chosen as the No. 1 seed for the Santa Barbara Bracket and will face Oregon Tech (11-1) at 1 p.m. today. The Owls received four votes in the last NAIA poll.
Eastern Oregon (7-1-2), ranked 16th in the NAIA, and unranked La Sierra (10-4) will play today’s preliminary match at 10:30 a.m. The winners will meet on Saturday at noon.
Although spectators won’t be allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, live video coverage will be provided on the Westmont athletics website.
“We’re super-excited to get going,” coach Jenny Jaggard said. “I feel like we have some positive energy going right now and the team is looking really sharp so we can’t wait to get after it.
“The GSAC championship is obviously a huge motivating factor for us to keep working.”
Westmont has made 21 trips to the National Tournament with an NAIA-record five championships to its credit. It won its first title in 1985, then made its big five-year run by winning again in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The Warriors last advanced to the final in 2013 before losing to Concordia, Ore., 1-0. The Warriors went 16-4-1 in their previous season of 2019, winning a pair of NAIA Tournament games before losing in the third round to Keiser, Fla. 2-1. Westmont’s all-time record in the national tournament is 38-12-8 for a winning percentage of .724.
Two wins this week will advance the Santa Barbara Bracket champion to Foley, Alabama to play out the rest of the single-elimination tournament from April 27 to May 3.
Defense has been the name of Westmont’s game this year. The Warriors allowed just one goal during their COVID-abbreviated, six-game GSAC season. Senior goalkeeper Gabi Haw led the way, winning her third-straight selection to the all-league first team. She has a goals-against average of 0.44 this season and ranks third all-time in shutouts (25) and fifth in total saves (186).
“Gabi’s the captain,” Jaggard said. “The energy she brings goes beyond the statistics. She’s the confidence of the backline, she’s the voice that organizes them — and when she does need a big save, she shows up and makes it. There’s a reason she was an All-American last year, she has all the tools.”
Defender Karly Kingsley, a redshirt sophomore, also made the All-GSAC first team.
“Karly is just a really talented and really smart soccer player,” Jaggard said. “On the field, she reads space and is amazing at sending crosses in, and off the field she’s just an amazing person.
“Her voice and her maturity make such a valuable asset for us.”
Three Westmont midfielders were also honored. Senior Savannah Scott and junior Teagan Matye were named to the first team, while Brynn Howard was chosen as the GSAC’s Freshman of the Year.
Scott received her second-straight all-league recognition as a defensive midfielder. She moved up to third all-time in converted penalty kicks by making one against Azusa Pacific on March 29.
“Savannah is the anchor point defensively for this team,” Jaggard said. “Nothing gets past her. She’s one of our best defensive players and sitting in the position she sits in, she’s often the person who starts our attack since she’s always countering the opposition’s attack.
“The word that comes to mind is ‘consistent.’ … Every single day I know what I’m getting out of her.”
Matye has received All-GSAC honors in each of her first three seasons at Westmont. She leads this year’s team in assists with four and added two goals to finish second in total points with eight in the team’s nine matches (the other two were COVID-19 forfeit victories).
“Teagan is a player that covers more ground on the field than any player I’ve ever coached,” said Jaggard, who served as an assistant at Chico State for five years before coming to Westmont in 2019. “She’s everywhere on the field which makes her dynamic for our offense and defensively she always finds a way to get back.
“I’ve been so excited in her growth this year especially in how dangerous she’s made herself in the box. I think she’s taking chances offensively that younger Teagan might not have, and that makes me really proud.”
Howard is only the second Westmont player ever to be named GSAC Freshman of the Year. Maddi Berthoud, who is now playing professionally overseas, received “Newcomer of the Year” as a freshman in 2016.
“I can’t wait to see where Brynn’s future goes,” said Jaggard. “She just continues developing week by week and she’s been absolutely fabulous for us in the midfield.
“Some things happened that led to her being kind of thrust into the six, which is where Savannah has typically played. And Brynn has just ran with the opportunity to stay in the middle.
“She reminds me of both Sav and Teagan in the way she plays, and I just love her confidence as a freshman. She’s composed and technical and she’s been huge for us this year.”
Oregon Tech won the Cascade Collegiate Conference West Division with a 9-1 league record. Although the Owls and Warriors faced no common opponents this year, Oregon Tech did defeat the GSAC’s William Jessup 3-1 on Feb. 13.
The Owls should test Westmont’s stingy defense, having outscored their opposition 41-4 this season. They average 3.4 goals per match. Sophomore midfielder Maddie Miller leads with 11 while freshman forward Mehana Ortiz has scored eight goals with a team-high 11 assists. Senior forward Abigail Herbert has added seven goals and two assists.
Alyx Berkhartzmeyer and Sydni Nakamura have shared the goaltending duties. Berkhartzmeyer has not allowed a single goal in 656 minutes of work. The Owls have shut out their last seven opponents.
La Sierra won the California Pacific Conference South Division and earned a berth in this week’s tournament by handing UC Merced its first defeat of the season, 1-0, in the CPC championship game.
Eastern Oregon, which finished second in the CCC East Division after losing its final match to the College of Idaho, 1-0, received an at-large berth into the NAIA National Tournament.