September 18, 2013

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – On Saturday, two NAIA women’s soccer powerhouses will square off at Reese Field at 1:30 p.m. when the No. 16 nationally ranked Master’s College (7-0) host No. 15 CSU San Marcos (4-0-1).

It will be a defining moment in each squad’s season as the two teams enter the match without experiencing a defeat this year.

The closest San Marcos has come to dropping a match in its 2013 campaign was a 0-0 double overtime tie with then-No. 24 Rocky Mountain College on September 15. However, all of this can change as the Cougars travel to La Mirada tonight to take on vote-receiving Biola University (4-2).

The Lady Mustangs faced a scare on September 12 when they were engaged in a 1-1 tie against Southern Oregon University with three minutes left in the match.  Fortunately for TMC, Jessica Long (Wailuku, HI) scored eight minutes into overtime, giving the Lady Mustangs a 2-1 win, and their seventh victory of the season.

And while the Cougars enter Saturday’s match with a higher spot n the NAIA national poll, and are ranked 34th in Division I in shutouts per game (0.40), and 41st in total shutouts (2), all signs point to the Lady Mustangs as the favorites.

Both the Lady Mustangs’ current team and individual rankings eclipse the Cougars’ 2013 efforts as TMC ranks ninth in total goals (27) and total shutouts (3).  Also, the Lady Mustangs rank 13th in the NAIA in total goals per game at 3.86.

Undoubtedly, the key to the Lady Mustangs’ phenomenal start has been standout senior forward Jordan Benson (Corona, CA).  Benson, who redshirted last year, has made the most of her first year in the blue and gold by ranking sixth in the NAIA in scoring with 24 points (9 goals, 6 assist).

On the other side of the pitch, TMC boasts a defense that ranks 25th in shutouts per game (0.43). Anchored by senior goalkeeper Ilyssa Espiritu (Bakersfield CA), TMC’s defense is poised to keep the Cougars’ offense at bay as the netminder ranks 23rd in the NAIA in goals-against per game (0.71).

And while the No.15/16 showdown statistically weighs in favor of the Lady Mustangs, sixth-year head coach Curtis Lewis isn’t looking past the Cougars.

“San Marcos is always an intense match," assessed Lewis. "For the last six years they have been a formidable opponent. We’re going to need to keep passing the ball around and score when we can.”

However, San Marcos, one of 10 independent teams in the NAIA, lacks one thing that’s driving the Lady Mustangs: entering conference play undefeated.

Next to Golden State Athletic Conference rival Vanguard (5-0), who ranks No. 2 on the poll, the Lady Mustangs (7-0) are the only team in the NAIA who currently have an unblemished record.

Three other GSAC teams also have a strong representation on the NAIA’s Top 25 poll with Westmont (5-0-1) ranking sixth, Concordia (2-0-2) at No. 25, and Biola receiving votes.

Down, but not out, are both Hope International (2-3-2) and Arizona Christian (2-4) playing sleepers at the bottom half of the conference.

But in order for TMC to stay undefeated as it enter its conference opener against Biola at La Mirada on October 1, they must stop CSU San Marcos’ efforts this Saturday.

The Master’s College Sports Information Department plans to broadcast and stat the NAIA showdown live, and can be accessed by clicking here.  Attendees are encouraged to stay for The Master’s College men’s soccer team’s home opener against the No. 22 ranked CSU San Marcos Cougars at 4:00 p.m.