ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — The season came to an end Thursday for Westmont women’s soccer (13-2-5) in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Championship.
The Warriors fell 3-1 to the top-ranked and top-seeded Crusaders of William Carey (Miss.), who improved to 21-0.
“I felt like we started reasonably strong except for some defensive breakdowns,” said Westmont head coach Jenny Jaggard. “We gave them two goals that came too easily and were very preventable.
“I was proud of how we fought back. We had some moments where I thought we were going to capitalize. We showed that they have vulnerabilities but the moments we had weren’t quite quality enough. Against a team like that, as the clock ticks down it gets harder and harder.”
The Eagles’ first goal came in the 14th minute, when Kauany Sousa scored from 19 yards in front of the goal. Twenty minutes later, William Carey scored again on a Kaylie Agostine goal, assisted by Veronica Herrera.
In the 54th minute, the Eagles extended their lead to 3-0 with a goal from Maria Corral Pinon from 17 yards out.
Westmont’s Grace Duckens prevented the shutout in the 84th minute. Kendall Morton served a ball forward along the ground from beyond midfield. The ball got past the Eagles’ back line of defense and Duckens raced for the ball as Carey’s keeper, Jaina Eckert, came out from her goal. As Eckert slid for the ball just inside the 18 yard box, Duckens shot the ball past her and into the goal.
“It felt good to get on the scoreboard,” stated Jaggard. “I was happy for Grace and that we were able to make some kind of statement. We just needed more of that energy sooner.”
Two Warriors played in their final game of their collegiate careers – Teagan Matye and Katie Stella.
“Teagan played almost every minute of this game,” said Jaggard. “She did so much defensive work for us today. She will be extremely missed because of the ground that she covers and the work rate she has. She is very intelligent on the ball and keeps us in possession. She will be really hard to replace.
“Stella, who scored twice here in Orange Beach, is very cheeky and a very technical player,” observed Jaggard. “A good finisher is always hard to come by. I was proud of her getting through her injuries this year. It has taken a while to get her running at full throttle, but she has stayed healthy over the last month and put in some great minutes for her team.”
Three other players caught the eye of the coach today.
“Daisy Alvarez, Karly Kingsley and Taylie Scott were standout players in this game,” said Jaggard. “They did some really good work for us. Daisy, coming off an injury, took ownership of her spot and did a great job shutting down one of the best players in the country.
“Karly is so versatile, she played center back, outside back and the outside of the diamond today. She is a smart player who had some good ideas today. We just weren’t able to connect with them and find the back of the net.
“Taylie is a rock in the back. Her defending is hard to beat.
“Another player who I thought had a really good day was Grace Hotaling. She did a ton of defensive work and gave us a couple of good scoring opportunities.”
The Warriors returned to the quarterfinals after missing out on a trip to the final site a year ago.
“Getting the players experience at the final site is a huge piece,” said Jaggard. “We have younger players that have never experienced nationals. Our seniors have experienced it twice and now our sophomores and juniors have experienced it.
“Today, they played against the team that is favored to win the whole thing, which is what happened in 2019. The team we lost to then went on to win the whole thing. Playing the best teams gives us some context of where we are. We are really close, we are in this. It also shows us some of the things we need to work on to improve and be the one to hold the trophy the following year.”
Despite the disappointment of the loss, Jaggard expressed her appreciation for the team’s accomplishments.
“The trajectory of this team’s growth this year has been remarkable,” expressed Jaggard. “We are a good team and I am happy for them that they got to experience going to the final site. I am proud of the growth. We have gotten better in every area of the field – in the finishing aspects and in team-defending aspects.”
The Warriors made their 23rd appearance in the NAIA National Championship, winning three out of four games this season and improving to 41-13-8 (.714) in national championship play.
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.