After winning the Golden State Athletic Conference Championship on Monday with a 2-0 victory over No. 5 Azusa Pacific, the 24th-ranked Westmont College men’s soccer team has turned its attention to the 2008 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship opening round. The Warriors (10-6-2) will host Bay Area school Holy Names at 7 p.m. Saturday at UCSB’s Harder Stadium.
Westmont will use the opportunity to say thank you to the Santa Barbara community for all the help, support and compassion it has received in response to the Tea Fire, which swept through campus last week. In addition to free admission, the Warriors plan to honor some of those who gave of themselves in protecting not only the Westmont campus but also the communities of Montecito and Santa Barbara.
Holy Names, which boasts a record of 14-3, is the champion of the California Pacific Conference consisting of teams from Northern California. Holy Names played two GSAC teams this year. The Hawks lost to Point Loma Nazarene by a score of 3-2 and lost to Fresno Pacific by a score of 3-1. Westmont tied Point Loma Nazarene 1-1 and defeated Fresno Pacific 3-0. The two teams had no other common opponents during the 2008 season.
Westmont and Holy Names last faced each other in 2006 in the first round of the NAIA Regional Tournament where the Warriors defeated the Hawks by a score of 2-0. The only other previous meeting between the two squads was in 2004 as part of Westmont’s Heritage Club Classic. The Warriors won that game 3-2.
Holy Names, which has outscored its opponents 70-17 this season, is led offensively by Mustafa Celik, a junior forward. Celik, who hails from Cologne, Germany, has scored 30 goals this season including a season-high seven against Cal State Maritime. Holy Names has won its last 13 games.
Westmont is on a five-game winning streak including victories over ranked opponents in its last three outings. Sophomore forward Anthony Niboli leads the Warriors with seven goals while senior midfielder Jonathon Schoff has recorded six goals and three assists. Except for two penalty kicks, Westmont has not allowed a goal since Oct. 22 in a 1-1 tie with Biola. Senior goalkeeper Justin Etherton has tallied 64 saves and recorded a goals-against-average of 0.97.
The victor of Saturday’s game will advance to the second round, where they will face the winner between sixth-seeded Park of Missouri (11-3-3) and Baker of Kansas (13-6-2). The second round, and all subsequent rounds, will be held at the 2008 NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Final Site, which this year is Ramirez Field on the campus of Fresno Pacific. The second round game for the Westmont-Fresno Pacific winner will be at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 2.
Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.