Westmont College Athletics will honor two championship teams during Saturday’s homecoming soccer games at Thorrington Field.
Both soccer teams will be taking on Hope International with the women kicking off at noon and the men following at 3:15 at the Montecito campus.
The 2021 NAIA National Champion Women’s Basketball Team will be honored in a ring ceremony during half time of the women’s game. Prior to the men’s game, the 1972 NAIA National Champion Men’s Soccer Team will be honored for their championship run 50-years ago.
After going 10-1 during the COVID-19 shortened regular season, Westmont Women’s Basketball, led by head coach Kirsten Moore, won five games in the NAIA National Championship to claim the title. Westmont’s only loss that season was to NCAA Division I opponent Pepperdine.
After receiving a first-round bye, Westmont traveled to Lewiston, Idaho, and defeated Montana Western in the second round by a score of 97-62. The Warriors converted an NAIA Tournament record 21 three-point shots in the game, led by Lauren Tsuneishi who made eight and Iyree Jarrett who drained seven.
With the win, Westmont earned a trip to Sioux City, Iowa and a slot in the Round of 16 where they took on Lyons (Ark.). Westmont won by a score of 66-60 with Jarrett posting 30 points in the win and Stefanie Berberabe tallying 18.
In the quarterfinals, Westmont took down crowd favorite Clarke (Iowa) 90-68. Jarrett, Berberabe and Tsuneishi provided the firepower, notching 25, 23 and 22 points respectively. Tsuneishi tallied another six three-point buckets.
That put Westmont into the semifinals for a match-up with Indiana Wesleyan. Led by Berberabe’s 26 points, Westmont prevailed 74-65. Kaitlin Larson aided the Warrior cause with a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds.
With the win, Westmont advanced to the national championship game for the third time in nine years. Waiting for the Warriors were the top-seeded Saints of Thomas More (Ky.), who boasted a record of 29-1. Berberabe and Jarrett each tallied 23 points and Tsuneishi added 14 more.
Three-point shooting made a big difference again with Jarrett and Tsuneishi each connecting for four and Gabriella Stoll tallying three. Larson’s 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, helped the Warriors keep the Saints at bay. The win was the 27th in a row against NAIA opponents, going back to January of 2020.
Berberabe was named the tournament MVP and was joined by Jarrett and Tsuneishi on the All-Tournament team.
The national championship title was the second for women’s basketball, the first coming in 2013, and the ninth for Westmont Athletics. Westmont’s first NAIA title came in 1972, courtesy of Westmont Men’s Soccer.
Led by legendary head coach Russ Carr, the Warriors ended the regular season with a record of 11-1-1 which included victories over USC, Fresno State, UC Berkeley, San Diego State, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford.
Westmont began postseason play in the NAIA District III Playoffs with a match-up against rival Biola. The Warriors had previously defeated the Eagle 3-1 and did so again in the semifinals by the exact same score. That propelled Westmont into the District III finals where they prevailed over the Poets of Whittier, once more by a score of 3-1.
As the District III champions, the team traveled to Dunn, N.C., to compete in the national tournament.
“Half the team flew and half the team drove,” recalled John Paul Verhees in an interview in 2018. “We were sometimes six or seven people in a hotel room.”
While the people of Dunn were very welcoming of the team from California, the field conditions were less than ideal. Since the field was covered by snow, the hosts poured kerosene on it and set it on fire in an attempt to burn off the snow. It worked, but it left a muddy mess. To try and dry it up, they brought in a helicopter to use as a giant fan.
First up for the Warriors at the national tournament was Fredonia (N.Y.), whom Westmont defeated 3-0. The second game was against Quincy (Ill.) which the Warriors won 2-0, resulting in a berth in the title game.
In the final, Westmont matched wits with Davis-Elkins (W.Va.) and played to a 1-1 tie in regulation. In the first overtime period, Verhees, now an assistant coach for the Westmont women’s soccer team, scored in the first overtime period to claim the national championship trophy.
Goalkeeper Gary Allison, who allowed only one goal in the national championship, was named the Tournament MVP. Joining him on the All-Tournament team were Tamrat Asfaw and Verhees.
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.