The last time the Westmont men’s soccer team was on its home pitch, it secured its first undefeated season in conference play since 1989.
On Wednesday, the Warriors will look to do some more winning at Thorrington Field as they will host the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament after winning the regular-season title.
Westmont, the No. 4 team in the NAIA, will be seeking its first seventh overall tournament title and first since 2017 when the team also hosted the GSAC tournament and won in front of its home crowd.
The Warriors have good reason to believe they are in a position to win the tournament seeing as how they have only lost one game all season.
Westmont owns a 13-1-1 overall record and went 7-0-1 in GSAC play. Its only loss was to Division-I opponent, Cal Poly SLO.
Westmont, the No. 1 seed for the tournament, received a first-round bye and will face OUAZ in the GSAC semifinals.
The Warriors beat OUAZ 2-0 on Halloween to secure the GSAC regular-season crown. In that match, Westmont got goals from junior forward Tyler Young and junior midfielder Jose Vasquez.
Young leads the team in goals with nine on the season and has four-game winning scores which tops the conference.
Overall, however, the Warriors are a fairly balanced offense that has seen 10 players get on the scoring column. As a team, Westmont has posted nine shutouts.
On defense, Westmont holds its opponents to less than one goal per contest (0.67) which is the best mark in the conference.
That is due in large part to senior goalkeeper Edward “Lalo” Delgado who has allowed just eight of the teams 10 goals. He averages a little over two saves per contest and has even scored a goal this year, nailing his only penalty kick of the season.
Delgado was one of five Westmont athletes to be named to the All-GSAC team this season. He was also a three-time winner of the conference’s defensive player of the week award.
Other key athletes include GSAC’s Player of the Year, Westmont’s senior Tim Heiduk.
Heiduk, a central defender, tallied four goals and one assist this season and served as one of the Warriors’ two team captains. He is the ninth Warrior in program history to earn the honor.
Despite being a senior, Heiduk actually redshirted his sophomore season making him a fifth year. This meant Heiduk had the option to either play soccer somewhere else or even quit the sport together after getting his degree.
He opted to pick up a second major and play out his last year of eligibility, a decision he said was “the best I could have made.”
Midfielder Francisco “Panchito” Castro will also be a key player to watch as he has been a key cog in the offense. In fact, Castro has been a playmaker for the Warriors, tallying a team-high five assists while also scoring four goals.
Westmont is coached by Dave Wolf who earned his fifth GSAC Coach of the Year award this season.
Wolf, in his 29th year as the head man in charge of the program, holds a career record of 341-160-54 (.663) and is the sixth winningest active coach in the NAIA.
With a win on Wednesday, the Warriors would move on to face the winner of the other semifinal match between Menlo and Vanguard.
Westmont defeated Vanguard 3-0 the first time around this season but that does not mean it would be an easy win in the final. Two years ago, the Warriors saw their season end in the semifinals of the GSAC tournament following a 2-1 loss to the Lions.
If the Westmont draw Menlo, that would also be a tough opponent. The Warriors beat its conference opponents by a combined score of 20-4. Two of those goals were scored by Menlo.
In fact, the Oaks had the Warriors on the ropes leading 1-0 at the break and losing in overtime 3-2. Young scored the winning goal for Westmont.
Regardless, the one thing Westmont has going for it is the fact that the team’s season will not end even if it loses in the tournament.
Capturing the regular-season tournament title and holding a record at 13-1-1 has helped the Warriors capture the conference’s host berth in the NAIA tournament and Receive an NAIA National Tournament Opening Round bye and enter the tournament in the round of 16.
That means that Westmont virtually has no real incentive to win the tournament.
But that isn’t stopping the Warriors from taking this tournament as seriously as possible, as though they needed to win to keep their season alive.
“The GSAC tournamnet is our last chance to play competitive games for a while. We have about two weeks before the NAIA tournament after the GSAC tournament and obviously it’ll benefit to rest but taking the tournament seriously as our last opportunity to get quality minutes against good competition is our goal, especially since it is at home,” Heiduk said.
The Warriors will host the Spirit at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The championship match will be played at 1:30 p.m. on Friday at Thorrington Field.