COSTA MESA — Westmont Men’s Soccer (7-3-2, 2-3-1 GSAC) had their hearts broken in Costa Mesa on Thursday afternoon, following a 2-1 loss to the Vanguard Lions (6-2-3, 4-1-1). Early on, a missed penalty kick came back to haunt the Warriors immediately, but in the second half, the club clawed their way back into the match.

However, in the penultimate minute of the game, the Warriors could not hang on to the stalemate as the decisive goal crept into their net.

“It was an absolutely brutal loss,” offered head coach Dave Wolf.

In the first half, Westmont put more shots on frame than the Lions (3-2), but Vanguard keeper Edwin Monterrosa worked hard to keep Westmont off the board. Monterrosa’s shining moment of the match came in the 16th minute, when early momentum swung in favor of the Lions.

Sixteen minutes in, the Warriors countered off a deep attack from the Lions, eventually sending a long ball across midfield to their most dangerous scorer, Braeden Pryor. With several Lions not yet back across the field, defender Joseph Hernandez was the lone man for Pryor to beat as the Warrior entered the top of the 18-yard box.

Rather than allow Pryor to take a one-on-one shot at Monterrosa, Hernandez came in with a dangerous tackle, drawing an expected whistle resulting in a penalty kick. While given a yellow card, the decision for Hernandez to not allow Pryor a shot was proven to be a decent gamble, thanks to Monterrosa.

On the ensuing penalty kick, Wolf opted to let Captain Landon Amaral go for his third make in as many opportunities this season. On this occasion, while Amaral put it on target to the lower-right corner of the goal, Monterrosa guessed correctly and swatted it out of bounds to surrender only a corner kick.

Vanguard’s bench erupted upon the save, and grew only louder on the very next play following the corner. Less than 90 seconds following the missed penalty kick, Vanguard’s Nathaniel Gomez carried the ball on the opposite side of the pitch, even with the top of Westmont’s box.

With space to get a cross off, Gomez sent a ball to the center of the box. Waiting for it in the center of the crowd was Stewart Alvayero, who volleyed it to the back post where Markus Garcia was waiting. Garcia fired initially with his right foot, only to have his attempt blocked by a Westmont defender. However, Garcia immediately was given a second chance, as the rebound bounced to his left.

This time, in-between hops, Garcia got on top of it and struck the ball with his left foot as it was belt-high. This time, the frozen-rope was pocketed inside Highfill’s far-post for the 1-0 lead.

For the remainder of the first half, Westmont did not surrender another shot on frame. However, the Warriors only mustered one of their own, and it was again corralled by Monterrosa. Ten minutes in the second half, however, the Warriors found a way to pull even.

In what appeared to be a slowly progressing possession, Daniel Tuscano carried the ball mid-way through Vanguard’s half of the pitch. The Lions’ left back was the first man to challenge Tuscano, vacating the top-edge of the box. Right as the defender left to challenge Tuscano, Michael Stull saw a path to the box on Tuscano’s right.

Stull darted for the now-vacated corner of the 18, and Tuscano took advantage of the opening by rolling a pass that met Stull in full stride as he entered the box. With a single touch, Stull snuck a shot outside the reach of Monterrosa and inside the left post, tying the match at one apiece.

For the final 35 minutes of the match, Westmont provided consistent pressure on Monterrosa, putting an additional three shots on goal. Unfortunately, each shot was stuffed by the opposing keeper as the clock continued to wind down. Then, with just 61 seconds left on the clock, disaster struck inside Westmont’s six-yard box.

Following a Warrior foul, the Lions were awarded a free kick nearly 40 yards from Westmont’s goal line. Vanguard withheld only Monterrosa, the keeper, and Alvayero, who served the ball in, resulting in heavy traffic once the ball floated towards the six-yard box.

Westmont keeper Brady Highfill left his line as the ball flew closer, and sprung himself up in the air in an attempt to snare the ball with both hands. As Highfill came down, a swarm of Lions crowded the keeper. As contact was made, the not-yet secured ball was dislodged from the hands of Highfill, before dropping mere feet from the goal line. Soon-after, the ball was struck by Vanguard’s Gomez.

The shot ricocheted off a Westmont defender who stood on the goal line, but the ball was not hit cleanly enough for its direction to change, ultimately landing in the back of the net for the match-winner.

Westmont now must turn the page to Saturday, as the club returns to the pitch against San Diego Christian for a 1:30 p.m. contest. Following the match, Westmont will return home for the final two home games of the regular season. Links to Saturday’s match and live coverage for all matches will be found on the Westmont Athletics website.