Westmont’s NAIA tourney ends on PKs

DECATUR, Ala — Facing a familiar opponent in the second round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Tournament, No. 14 Westmont played to a 2-2 tie against No. 5 Point Loma Nazarene through two overtime periods. Unfortunately Point Loma advances to the quarterfinals by virtue of winning penalty kicks 2-1. Though the game officially ends in a tie, the Warriors’ season comes to an end with a record of 13-6-1.

“I don’t have any complaints on our side,” said Westmont head coach Kristi Kiely. “There is nothing more we could have asked our team to do. Point Loma had two corner kicks in the second half that they scored on and I don’t think they had many other chances. Our players moved the ball well, fought hard and worked hard. We were able to play our game despite the field condition, by which I was surprised and impressed.”

The temperature at kick-off was 36 degrees and went down from there as the sun set just 25 minutes after the game began. Rains over the last few days in Decatur made for a good bit of water on the field and that was complicated by rain and wind during the game.

“The last two days training in the rain, the team has looked great,” said Kiely about preparing for the weather and field conditions. “We wanted to try and play the game our way at the start. The word was that if it wasn’t working, we were going to have to adjust and be willing and be aware enough to do that. But it seemed to be working. We didn’t have to adjust. We moved the ball up the field and we were having nice sequences of five, six, seven passes. I am very proud of the team for their ability to do that on this surface and in this weather.”

Westmont dominated play in the first half tallying nine shots, three of which were on goal, while Point Loma was unable to get a shot off.

“I thought Ashley (Correa) and Aolani (Rueff) were fantastic in the first half,” said Kiely. “Ashley made a conscious effort to take control of the first half. She and Aolani were combining really well. They were confident and they were bold in their movements. In the second half our backs needed to step up a little bit more and they did. Point Loma came at us a little bit more. Our back line was strong. Our midfielders were also fantastic. Jenny (Martinez), Melanie (Greene) and Tiffany (Dimaculangan) specifically combined very well together and got into the attack. Lindsey had a very important save that she tipped over the goal at the end of the second half. She didn’t see as much action as the Point Loma keeper. It is hard to come up big when you are really cold and haven’t been involved in much. I am very proud of her ability to come up big on that save.”

In the fifty-first minute, Erica Wessels scored an unassisted goal, putting in a ball that got loose on the left side after a corner kick. Just twenty-four seconds later, the Warriors evened the score at one when Rueff put the ball in the net off a pass from Dimaculangan.

In the sixty-fourth minute Wessels struck again, scoring once more after a scrum in front of the net that followed a corner kick.

With the second half clock running down to under five minutes, the Warriors desperately needed an answer. That answer came when Correa served the ball forward to Martinez who scored with 4:04 remaining in regulation.

After two scoreless overtime periods, the game officially ended in a time. However, it remained to be determined who would advance to that next round. That would be decided by penalty kicks in which each team would be given five attempts. After the first six attempts, no one had put the ball in the back of the net. Westmont converted one of their next two attempts, but Point Loma made both.

“It was probably the worst set of PKs ever taken in the history of soccer,” said Kiely. “But I thought Lindsey did well. It is a silly game sometimes, and you don’t feel that more as a coach than on nights like tonight.

“The players are heartbroken,” continued Kiely. “Mostly because they knew how well they were playing. They knew they were playing good soccer, they knew they had the ball a lot of the time, they knew they were getting good chances and they knew they were strong defensively.

“They are such a tight group of young women who would do anything for each other. We lose three to graduation (Melanie Greene, Samantha Kleen and Leeza Henderson) and the team is mostly disappointed that they will not get to step on the field again together as the same group. We wanted to enjoy this season together and we wanted to enjoy it longer. But we are thankful for all that we have been able to experience.”