GLENDALE, Ariz. — Westmont Men’s Soccer (5-2-1, 0-1-1 GSAC) fought for 90 minutes under the 97-degree sun in Glendale, Arizona on Saturday afternoon, and left the match with their first GSAC-point of the season. Westmont and Arizona Christian (5-1-4, 1-0-1) traded second-half goals in what turned out to be a 1-1 tie to cap off Westmont’s Arizona road trip
“I thought it was an outstanding performance from us,” said Westmont head coach Dave Wolf. “The first half, especially, was very good. It wasn’t far off our best half of the season.
“It was just a really big bounce back for us today, and in really difficult conditions. They had to dig really deep, and they deserved more from the match, but this was much better than dropping this result.”
In the first half of action, only two shots challenged either team’s keeper, with both shots coming from Warriors. In the ninth minute, Erik Guerrero put a shot on frame, and in the 13th, Graeme Jorden fired one as well.
However, ACU keeper Carlos Gallardo corralled the only two shots on goal of the entire first half to keep the match tied 0-0 through 45 minutes.
In the first half, Westmont surrendered only two shots of any kind to the Firestorm, but on both occasions the shots sailed well over keeper Brady Highfill’s crossbar.
In the 57th minute, Arizona Christian fired their first pair of shots on frame, and made the near-hour of anticipation worth it for the home team. ACU right-back Kaden Grub was the recipient of a pass on the near sideline after the Firestorm stole possession from the Warriors as midfield. With the center of the pitch crowded, the sideline was Grub’s for the taking.
The defender carried the ball to the nearest-edge of the 18-yard box, and fired a shot to Highfill’s far post. The sophomore keeper shuffled to his right, leapt, and made an excellent save, swatting the ball in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately for Highfill and the Warriors, the keeper’s redirection shot directly into the body of Christian Santiago Ballesteros. Without having to move, The Firestorm’s rebound ricocheted off his body and into the back of the net, giving ACU the 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes later, good fortune switched sides. In the 68th minute, Braeden Pryor made a run towards the edge of ACU’s box, when he was met by a Firestorm defender with a dangerous slide. The defender picked the wrong place to do so, with Pryor only a few steps into the box, and without clear enough possession to threaten with a legitimate shot.
When the whistle blew following the slide, however, the Firestorm collectively hunched over in disbelief, realizing the miscue in the box had led to Westmont receiving a penalty kick. For the second time this season, Westmont captain Landon Amaral was tasked with taking the penalty kick, and for the second time this season, Amaral buried it home for the equalizer.
“I thought we responded well on a couple of occasions,” reflected Wolf. “On Thursday, while we didn’t fully get over the hump, we did a nice job of getting ourselves back in the game. Today, we showed much of that same resiliency.”
The Firestorm recorded the game’s only shot on goal following Amaral’s equalizer, and it found the hands of Highfill who made his second save of the match. Following 90 minutes of action, the Warriors escaped the match with their first conference point of the season.
“In the grand scheme of things, I think we’re going to look back on today as a big match for us,” assured Wolf. “It might not look all that impressive on paper, but ACU is a really good team. It’s going to be tough for teams to come to Arizona and take a lot of points from (OUAZ and ACU).
“I feel like we took a step in the right direction today to close off a long and hard road trip.”
Westmont returns to the pitch Saturday, October 8 at 1:30 p.m., when they take on The Master’s Mustangs in Santa Clarita. Links to live coverage will be available on the Westmont Athletics website.