ROCKLIN — On the last day of the regular season, Westmont (5-7-1, 3-4-1) was finally able to punch its ticket into postseason play.
After defeating William Jessup (1-14, 0-8) by a score of 7-1, the Warriors men’s soccer team on Saturday officially clinched the sixth and final spot in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament.
And next Saturday, the Warriors will travel to Atherton to take on the three-seeded Menlo Oaks in the GSAC Tournament quarterfinals.
“To be able to fight our way back to the postseason is significant,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf. “I know on paper we haven’t had the most impressive season, but as a group we’ve been through a lot. To be able to persevere and get back to the tournament is definitely noteworthy.”
In the third minute, the Warriors were immediately faced with adversity, as has been the case early on in games all season. After a foul was called inside the Westmont box, Jessup was awarded a penalty kick before the chairs were warm, and Luis Castillo chipped a shot to the back of the net for an immediate 1-0 advantage.
In the 15th minute, however, Westmont took the first step in ensuring this narrative would not end their season. Zach Godeck sent a long-ball 40 yards downfield to Landon Amaral at the edge of the 18-yard box. Amaral one-touched a pass in the air to Spencer Crithfield, who was a few yards closer to the center of the box.
With a single touch, Crithfield floated a ball inside the upper-right post, freezing Jessup keeper Alejandro Pantoja to tie things up.
“After conceding a penalty two minutes in,” began Wolf, “that was a critical moment to be able to put it behind us quickly. Arguably, that was the most crucial moment of the game. With how often we’ve played from behind this season, being able to quickly knot things up allowed us to take a breath and play soccer.”
The road-Warriors did not stop there, as five minutes later the club once again found the back of the net. This time it was Samuel Tuscano rolling a free kick from 15 yards out into the six-yard box, with Kevin Smith Jr. flicking it past Pantoja to give the Westmont Warriors a 2-1 advantage.
For the senior Smith, it was the first goal of his collegiate career.
In the 51st minute, Westmont got some breathing room when Jackson Wolf, Coach Wolf’s youngest son, scored his first collegiate goal.
Playing on the back-side of the six during a Westmont corner kick, the freshman Wolf saw the ball hop all the way past the Jessup defense and directly in front of him. Wolf then struck the ball with his left-foot while it was even with his waist, and watched it soar into the back of the net for the club’s third goal of the afternoon.
“That was a critical moment in the game,” noted Wolf. “With a one-goal lead, anything can happen. To get some breathing room meant we could play with more confidence and attack the box more, which we did. For a lot of reasons, that was a really cool moment.”
“I said to him in front of the guys after the game, ‘It isn’t easy playing for your old man.’ Jackson has handled that very well this year, and I was really proud of him, not just as his coach but as his old man.”
The club kept on cruising in the 60th and 63rd minute, when Crithfield scored his second and third goals of the match. In the 60th minute, Crithfield finished from inside the back of the six-yard box with one touch after Donovan Howat served a pass from the far side of the field.
Three minutes later, Crithfield did it again when Tuscano found the freshman open on the far-side of the six-yard box. Again, Crithfield got the job done with a single touch.
“All Spencer needs is a single touch,” said Wolf. “There are a lot of players that could learn a lot from how Spencer Crithfield handles himself in the box. He doesn’t have to bring it down, he doesn’t have to get around anybody. If he gets a look, he’s putting it on frame.”
In the 74th minute, Braeden Pryor joined the party when he finished a loose ball inside the six-yard box for his third goal of his sophomore campaign. Then, in the 82nd minute, Aldo Becerril let one fly from 20 yards out, and bent a high-arching shot past the keeper for the club’s seventh goal of the match.
Eight minutes later, the club officially punched their ticket to the postseason.
When the Warriors take the field against the Oaks next Saturday, only nine days will have passed after the last time the two clubs met. When the two played on Thursday, Menlo defeated Westmont 1-0.
“We love that we have the opportunity to go back there,” said Wolf. “We were decent when we played on Thursday, but I think we left a lot on the table. I’m looking forward to going back there and seeing if we can keep moving forward.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.