Second-Half Adjustments Lead Westmont Women’s Soccer to NAIA Opening-Round Win | Sports

Second-Half Adjustments Lead Westmont Women’s Soccer to NAIA Opening-Round Win | Sports

Westmont scored an equalizing goal seconds into the second half and finished the game winner in the 79th minute to beat Embry-Riddle, 2-1, in the semifinals of the NAIA Women’s Soccer Opening Round Tournament on Thursday at Thorrington Field.

With the win, the host Warriors (11-1-5) advance to the Opening Round championship game on Saturday to take on fourth-seeded Marymount (9-10-2). The Mariners reached the finals by stunning top-seeded and ninth-ranked Southeastern (15-4).

Westmont conceded a goal in the 12th minute on a free kick. Sierra Vicente sent a free kick into the box from near the right touch line and Kylee Bennett redirected the ball inside the near post to put the Eagles on top 1-0.

“I have to give some credit to their outside backs and their wing forward,” noted Westmont coach Jenny Jaggard. “They gave us some interesting tactical problems that we haven’t seen this year.”

The Warriors missed Daisy Alvarez, who was sitting out the game due to illness.

“Daisy’s absence was definitely a piece of our first half performance,” said Jaggard. “She has pretty much been our only six and plays 90 minutes most games. It has been a fear for me not knowing who would be the back-up for Daisy. 

“I think we found our back-up the second half in Kendall Morton. She played a tremendous second half. They have two talented midfielders and Kendall shut them down. She also offered some offense that we weren’t seeing in the first half. I thought she had a fantastic game and made really good decision.”

The half-time adjustments paid immediate dividends. Just 30 seconds in, the Warriors knotted the game at one goal apiece. Shayna Stock made a long throw-in from the left touch line to Grace Hotaling who was at the top of the 6-yard box. Hotaling headed the ball toward the goal where Reese Davidson found herself one-on-one with the keeper, just three yards out. Davidson never let the ball touch the ground, using her right foot to drive it past a diving goalkeeper and finding the back of the net.

The game winner came in the 79th minute after Hotaling poked a ball away from a defender at the top of the 18-yard box. The ball went to the feet of Embry-Riddle’s Paige Thompson, but the defensive back was unable to corral it and left the ball teed up for Westmont’s Grace Duckens about 16-yard in front of the net. Duckens dribbled forward, taking one touch as the keeper charged forward. With her second touch, Duckens buried the ball in the corner of the net to give Westmont the lead.

“I love the response of this team,” expressed Jaggard. “This team responds when we are down. I wish we would respond before we are down, but we respond when we are down and that is a special talent that a lot of teams don’t have. 

“They have a lot of grit and a lot of fitness and a lot of heart. They don’t want to end their season. We are hungry and now, just one game away from getting to the goal of going to Alabama.”

To earn their tickets to Orange Beach, the Warriors will need to get past a resurgent Mariners team. After starting the season 0-8-1 in August and September, Marymount turned their season around and have posted a record of 9-2-2 in October and November. 

“It should be a high energy game on Saturday,” predicted Jaggard. “I’m excited that the West Coast is being represented in this final first-round game. I think Marymount is a good match-up for us. It should be a good challenge.”

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