Westmont (3-3, 1-0 GSAC) played 100 minutes of frustrating soccer on Thursday, before the 101st minute made it all worth it.
Connor Lynch’s golden goal a minute into the second-overtime downed San Diego Christian (2-4-2, 0-1) in Westmont’s Golden State Athletic Conference opener, redeeming an otherwise exhausting match at the Montecito college.
“I told our guys at the end of regulation,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf, “that we needed to respect the fight that San Diego Christian had. We were going to have to earn everything, and nothing was going to come easy. Today we showed a combination of guts and brains. We worked hard, we battled, and we showed a lot of character to be able to get it done.”
In the first half, neither side could build an offensive attack against the other, as there were only seven shots combined between the two sides, and only a pair of the offers were on goal.
In the 14th minute, San Diego Christian recorded the first shot on goal when Paul Anderson stole a Westmont pass on top of the Warriors’ eighteen. Anderson countered a Westmont attempt to clear the ball with an interception, and immediately fired the ball on frame. Then Mans Ingvarson dropped to his knees and blocked the ball down by his shoe tops, before pouncing on the ricochet ahead of an oncoming Hawk.
Ingvarson went on to tally four saves.
In the 21st minute, Aldo Becerril recorded Westmont’s lone shot on frame when he rolled a ball directly to Hawks’ keeper Carter Orchulli from 25 yards out.
Nearly 25 minutes passed without another shot on frame, as the two sides remained aggressive, but mostly in the middle-third of the field. In that middle-third, not much truly developed, due to the 17 combined fouls between the two.
“A big adjustment for us at half was just reminding the guys to leave the officials alone,” chuckled Wolf. “We sounded a little desperate, and it’s a hard enough sport when you’re keeping your wits about you.”
Westmont’s refocus was evident in the 55th minute, when Samuel Tuscano’s left foot once again led to a change on the scoreboard, this time via a corner kick. Tuscano served a ball to the back of the six-yard box that only Memo Mendoza could reach, and with one touch, Mendoza froze the Hawks’ keeper with a shot inside the left post that put the Warriors up 1-0.
For Mendoza, it was the first goal of his senior campaign.
“Today, Memo displayed who he should be as a player,” explained Wolf. “He was under control, measured it, and he finished it. Sometimes Memo can color outside the lines, but today he played the perfect role for us and we would not have won the game without him.”
In the 76th minute, Ruben Anguiniga turned the game upside-down when he crossed a ball to William Nyamba at the back of the six-yard box. Westmont’s defense left Nyamba uncovered, and the senior striker buried the equalizer with a single touch to make things 1-1.
The second half was an entirely different game, with eight shots on goal and two goals coming after a half with nearly zero offense. At the end of 90 minutes, the teams were still knotted 1-1.
In the 94th minute, Braeden Pryor was making a run 25 yards out before being tackled to the ground by Anderson. Landon Amaral, Connor Lynch, and Samuel Tuscano huddled around to discuss the set piece, and it was Lynch who ultimately let one fly. However, San Diego’s wall stuffed the shot and prevented the Warriors from getting a look on frame.
Lynch’s shot was the only scoring opportunity for either side in the first overtime, and the game was ticketed for the century mark in minutes.
After 100 minutes of hard-fought soccer, only one more was needed to find a victor. Forty seconds into the final overtime, Ingvarson took a free kick ten yards in front of his own box, and lofted the ball 75 yards down field. On the receiving end was the head of Pryor, who one-touch flicked the ball another ten yards in the right direction.
After the free kick and flick, the ball landed in the path of freshman Connor Lynch, who carried the ball into the 18 and sent a ball into the back of the net for a golden goal.
Lynch then ran in a circle, not sure of where the celebration was taking place, before deciding to sprint towards his own bench and find his way to the center of the mob. It was Lynch’s first collegiate goal.
“I think Connor Lynch is going to be the best newcomer in this conference,” Wolf said after the victory. “It wasn’t his sharpest day, but he showed character and stepped up big. He has a very bright future as a collegiate soccer player.”
“We didn’t lose our way emotionally today,” reflected Wolf. “The beautiful irony of that showed in the final moments. Braeden and Connor both struggled today for 100 minutes, but in the moment we needed them, they got us a result. There’s a lesson to be learned personally for those guys as well as collectively from that.”
The Warriors are back in action on Saturday at 3:15 p.m., when the Vanguard Lions come into town for another GSAC match. Tickets are available on the Westmont website.
“We’re always a big game for people, and we’re especially a big game for people when they think we’re down,” said Wolf. “Right now, if you look at the GSAC layout, teams might be smelling an opportunity to get us. The only thing we can do to change that is to win games.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.