The Westmont men’s soccer team (4-4, 2-1 GSAC) traveled down to Irvine on Thursday night and pulled off an upset of No. 23 Hope International (8-1, 0-1) by a score of 3-1.
After a scoreless first half, the Warriors scored three times in the second half to overpower the Royals on the road.
“It was a terrific performance,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf. “In every facet of the game, our guys executed so well. I was really proud to be a part of the group today.”
In the second minute, Hope International’s Sean Palena put the first shot of the night on frame when he set a ball knuckling off of his right foot toward Westmont keeper Mans Ingvarson. Ingvarson read the shot well, recognizing the right-footer’s spin was sending the ball to his left, and took one step in that direction before snaring it. Ingvarson would go on to have five saves.
“We were down a couple regulars in the back row tonight,” Wolf said on Thursday. “Mans was aware of how much we were asking of him tonight, and he answered the call. He is a competitive guy, and I think our last result mixed with us being banged up tonight might have lit a fire in him.”
In the 13th minute, Samuel Tuscano had a similar shot to Palena, with the difference being the ball leaving Tuscano’s left foot. The senior striker let fly Westmont’s first shot on goal, letting the ball spin off the outside of his left foot, but it skipped harmlessly into the hands of Hope’s Oscar Sierra.
For the remainder of the first half, only the Royals would post another shot on frame, which was once again smothered by Ingvarson. For the Warriors, they were fortunate to share a 0-0 tie at half, due to the club getting away with multiple misplays from the backline.
Four minutes into the second half, the Royals had a free kick 35 yards out and sent it toward Ingvarson on a short hop. Ingvarson dropped his knees and came up with the ball’s bounce, unable to cleanly grab it. The ball hovered into dangerous territory between the six-yard box and the goal line. But the only clean touch that the mob of Royals was able to get was to poke the ball wide of the left post, keeping the game tied at zero.
Then, in the 55th minute, Landon Amaral played a ball up to Connor Lynch who carried it toward the near corner, dribbling the ball through the legs of a Royal defender before crossing it.
Lynch’s cross ricocheted off a Royal’s defender and directly to an oncoming Wyatt Babineau, who calmly shot the ball past Sierra for a 1-0 lead and the first goal of his senior season.
“Wyatt is a great team guy,” Wolf said. “To see him have another big moment off the bench made everyone on our side extremely happy tonight. He’s developing a bit of a reputation for coming up in these big moments and our guys were so happy for him. Wyatt should feel great about the contribution he made to our team tonight.”
Eleven minutes later, the Warriors doubled their advantage. Memo Mendoza cleared a ball downfield that bounded toward Hope International’s 18, leading a Royals’ defender to attempt to head the ball back to Sierra. What the defender did not see was an oncoming Braeden Pryor, who stole the ball in between the defender and Sierra. After one dribble, Pryor had both men beat and tapped it in to give Westmont a 2-0 lead.
“That was pure desire and determination,” said Wolf. “Braeden came to play tonight and toughened up in a way we needed him to. He was a big presence, and when he’s playing his best brand of football, he’s a difficult matchup for anyone.”
In the 68th minute, the Royals got back within one following a free kick 40 yards out of the far side of the field. The cross challenged Ingvarson near his left post, and the keeper attempted to punch the ball out of harm’s way. Instead of a successful clearance, the ball shot directly into the body of a Westmont defender and straight down. From there, Palena passed the ball to Juan Vargas, who put it in the net to pull the Royals within one.
The momentum shift was short-lived.
In the 73rd minute, freshman Spencer Crithfield had a scoring opportunity inside the 18 and was tackled dangerously by an oncoming Royals defender, earning a penalty kick. Tuscano took the penalty kick, and the captain drilled it past Sierra for his team-high fourth goal of the season — and a 3-1 Westmont lead.
“Spencer had just come on at the time to spell Braeden,” noted Wolf, “and he ended up being a part of some huge moments. He didn’t play a lot of minutes, much like Wyatt, but Spencer getting that ball and not being afraid to get physical in the box led us to have that final opportunity.”
Seventeen minutes later, Westmont officially handed Hope International its first loss of the season.
“It was a complete performance on our end,” said Wolf. “It’s one that I hope can propel us to bigger things.”
The Warriors don’t take the pitch again until Oct. 16 when they host The Master’s on Thorrington Field as part of a men’s and women’s doubleheader on homecoming. The men will kick-off at 1:00 p.m. with the women following at 3:30 p.m.
Fans are advised that due to the commencement for the class of 2020 on that date, the campus will be closed until noon.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.