A Long Shot
September 12, 2013
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – With three minutes and twelve seconds left in the second half, Southern Oregon’s Caylin Sou Jackson beat TMC’s All-GSAC goalkeeper, Ilyssa Espiritu (Bakersfield, CA), and tied the match at 1-1.
The clock crept to the 90-minute mark, and forced The Master’s College women’s soccer team to face its first overtime appearance since a 3-2 double overtime victory over GSAC rival, Concordia, back on October 23, 2012.
But before overtime began, sixth-year head coach Curtis Lewis audibly challenged his Lady Mustangs, whose spotless 6-0 record appeared to be in jeopardy for the first time all season, to increase their intensity.
“Which one of you is going to step up and make a play?” barked Lewis from the sideline. “Which one of you is going to keep our season undefeated? Which one of you is going to prevent us from experiencing our first loss at home? I need someone to make a play.”
Out of Lewis’s 24 able bodies, it was Wailuku, Hawaii, native, Jessica Long that answered the call.
After two failed shots by Long at the at the 95:44 and 97:15 marks, Jordan Benson (Corona, CA) assisted the Hawaiian for the game-winning golden goal with two minutes left on the clock.
“She’s finding herself,” commented Lewis on Long. “She’s an upperclassman, and she is starting to play how upperclassmen should. It’s fantastic.”
After Long’s decisive goal, TMC’s bench stormed the field. The Lady Mustangs remained undefeated at 7-0.
However, for the better part of the match, it didn’t seem that overtime would be an issue as Natasha Coyle (La Habra) put the Lady Mustangs up 1-0 off a Tara Struiksma (Ontario, CA) assist at the 32:11 mark of the first half.
The Lady Mustangs’ signature stingy defense anchored the lead until Jackson’s match-tying goal.
“You want an overtime experience in your season,” assessed Lewis. “There’s something about grinding out a victory. Traditionally, we’ve lost these matches. I’m proud of our girls on how they stepped up today.”
Interestingly enough, a year ago when the Lady Mustangs and the Raiders met, the two teams dueled to a 0-0 draw.
Thursday’s rematch shows that the Lady Mustangs have come a long way since then.
Standing as a testament to this is the fact that the Lady Mustangs' maturation has garnered attention from the NAIA’s front office.
On Tuesday, TMC received news from the NAIA that they received a No. 21 ranking on the most recent 2013 NAIA Women's Soccer Coaches' first regular-season Top 25 Poll.
Coincidentally, TMC also learned that its next opponent, CSU San Marcos, ranks 15th.
“San Marcos is always an intense match," said 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.”
The Top 25 showdown will take place Saturday, September 21, at 1:30 p.m. on Reese Field. Should the Lady Mustangs beat the Cougars, they will enter conference play with a spotless 8-0 record.
And given the way the Lady Mustangs have been playing this season, it’s not likely that they will enter Saturday’s match intimidated by the Cougars’ higher ranking…not by a long shot.