Westmont Men’s Soccer (7-2-2, 2-2-1 GSAC) lost a hard-fought match to the Hope International Royals (9-1-4, 4-0-2) on Saturday in Santa Barbara by a score of 3-0. In the first half, the Royals opened the scoring rather quickly, before adding another pair in the second.
The Royals threatened continuously throughout the match, rattling off 14 shots, five of which were on goal. Whereas on the Warriors’ side, Westmont was held to seven shots, and only put one of those seven on frame.
“Hope International is a talented group,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf. “We had a difficult time coping with their talented players. We knew who they were, and had a good idea of what we wanted to do, but when it came down to playing the game, we weren’t able to handle those players.”
The Royals opened the scoring 13 minutes into the day, when several passes led to an opportunity for Dario Robles. The rapidly-moving opportunity began with Cory Booth playing it across midfield to Robles. From there, a handful of Royals came on strong into Westmont territory.
Then, in what one felt a single breathe, Robles passed to Diego Lopez on the outside-edge of the box, Lopez played it back to Willy Loredo-Suarez at the top of the box, and Loredo-Suarez rolled it back to an open Robles on the far edge of the six.
At that point, Westmont keeper Brady Highfill was forced to come off his line in an attempt to limit Robles’ angle, but the Royals’ attacker still found a lane inside the near-post to make it 1-0 Hope International.
“The troubling statistics are that in four of five league games we’ve played in, we’ve conceded the first goal,” began Wolf, “and in three of the four, we conceded an early goal. That is a difficult way to play this sport. We’ve had to chase it a lot, and some days we’ve done so well, but it takes too much of a toll to be successful.
“When you concede early against a team of this quality, you have a pretty big uphill battle.”
During the first-45 minutes of play, the Warriors did not record a single shot on goal, while only putting up two shots of any kind. On the other end of the field, Westmont’s defense allowed just one more shot on goal for the rest of half, limiting the Royals’ opportunity to double their advantage.
However, in the 54th minute, a rare defensive miscue from Westmont’s back row allowed the Royals to pull away. Partway through Westmont’s half of the pitch, the Royals attempted to send a long ball over-the-top and into Westmont’s box.
As the pass was still ascending, however, Westmont’s Daniel Tuscano leapt and saw the ball ricochet off his shin and into the air. The ball came down 25 yards from the Warriors’ goal line, and began bouncing directly in front of Christian Jimenez.
Jimenez then attempted to shield the ball, appearing to try and buy time for Highfill to come and grab it. By the time Jimenez and the Warriors realized the ball was still several yards from the box, HIU’s Loredo-Suarez sprinted past Jimenez and intercepted that ball.
From there, the Royals’ attacker had not a single Warrior between himself and Highfill, and calmly deposited the ball to the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
In the 72nd minute, the Royals capped off their dominant showing with another exchange of selfless passes through the Warriors’ box. Marc Trejo opened the door for the Royals by dribbling from the near-corner of the 18 to the top of the box.
From there, several Royals made runs inside the box, giving Trejo numerous options. On this occasion, Trejo played the ball to Robles on the near-edge of the six-yard box, and Robles passed to Lopez who was open at the center of it.
With one touch, Lopez sent home the third and final goal of the afternoon to make it 3-0 in favor of Hope International.
“The table doesn’t lie,” reflected Wolf. “What the table shows is that we’re in the middle of the pack in the GSAC. We’ve been able to hang with the clubs at the bottom of our standings, but we have not been able to play up to the teams that are above us in the standings.
“Now, we have to eat a piece of humble pie, and adjust our tactics a bit. Right now, teams are letting us have the ball because they think they can get to us in the back row. Up to this point, they’ve been right. We’ve gotten ourselves in some trouble, and now we’ll try to find a way to respond to that.”
The Warriors return to the pitch on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m., when they take on the Vanguard Lions in Southern California.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.