Austin Michelson tallied two first-half goals and Taylor Shahi added the clincher later on to lead The Master’s College to its second consecutive victory, a 4-2 decision over visiting Arizona Christian Saturday afternoon on Reese Field.
The win, which improved the Mustangs to 7-8-1 overall and 3-4-1 in the GSAC, gave them a sweep of their two-game, season series with the Firestorm. With two conference games remaining, the Mustangs, who started the day sitting in the sixth and final playoff spot, have a real shot at improving their seeding with the GSAC Tournament starting in 11 days
MIchelson (Scotts Valley, CA), who started the campaign as a valuable defender on the club’s back line, has developed into of its top weapons, making a much-needed transition to spark the offense. He came out firing against the Firestorm, putting one past ACU goalie Joshua Chelpka at the 7:11 mark of the first half for his fourth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Almost eleven minutes later (18:04), the senior did it again, this time taking a Kevin Scheunemann pass and shooting it past Chelpka to double his squad’s advantage.
But, the Firestorm weren’t about to go down without a fight or be shut out again as they had at the hands of the Mustangs back on September 29 in a 4-0 loss. A little over two minutes (20:33) after Michelson’s tally, ACU’s David Hernandez beat Mustang keeper Andrew Bussell (Bakersfield, CA) to halve the deficit.
The Mustangs had a couple of other opportunities in the first half but couldn’t convert and went to the break with the narrowest of margins. Over the opening 45 minutes, the Mustangs outshot the Firestorm 6-4 and Bussell picked up three saves.
Although the scoring in the second half mirrored that of the first, the Mustangs really never felt comfortable until the very end. It helped, though, when James Obimbo (Nairobi, Kenya) tallied his first goal of the season 9:06 into the final stanza, giving the Mustangs some breathing room at 3-1.
However, the Firestorm refused to go away. Just about eight minutes (62:05) later, Jesse Gerkey’s free kick from long range sailed past Bussell and into the net, narrowing the Mustang lead to just one goal again.
But, it didn’t take long for the Mustangs to respond and help settle some nerves as Shahi (Santa Rosa, CA) scored off an Obimbo assist at 67:14 to hand the Mustangs a two-goal edge. It was Shahi’s team-high eighth goal of the year.
Although there were still over 22 minutes left to play, Shahi’s goal seemed to put a dagger in the hearts of the Firestorm and capped a second half in which the Mustangs outshot their opponent 12-2.
Now, the Mustangs put their two-match winning streak and a desire to move up the GSAC ladder on the line Wednesday when they travel to Irvine to take on first-place and No. 4 Concordia. The Eagles trounced the Mustangs 6-1 in the clubs’ first meeting of the year back on October 2.
The Lady Mustangs (10-4-2 overall, 5-3 GSAC) put their three-game losing streak to rest against Arizona Christian (4-9-1, 1-7 GSAC) Saturday afternoon in a 4-0 victory.
Saturday’s match was also significant as the Mustangs celebrated eight seniors who made significant contributions to the soccer program, both on and off the field. Representing the senior class were Alethia Stroup (Alabaster, AL), Janelle Sullivan (Riverside, CA), Ashlea Andrade (Las Vegas, NV), Giannina Loza (Corona, CA), Danielle Hollinger (Agua Dulce, CA), Rachel Myers (Auburn, CA), and Kristyn Richards (Lancaster, CA). The seniors, as well as the rest of the Mustangs, took to the pitch one last time in the regular-season home finale.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for our seniors to get some good minutes and also for some of our players who haven’t gotten as much playing time,” said Mustang head coach Curtis Lewis. “I think our seniors provided great leadership as we were able to dominate all aspects of the game play and really get the ball back in the net after a three- game losing streak.”
The Lady Mustangs scored early and often in the first half as Jasmine Benson (Corona, CA) began the day by scoring in unassisted fashion 11 minutes into the first stanza. Trailing Benson’s goal by two and a half minutes, Kristyn Richards extended TMC’s lead to 2-0 with an assist from Loza. Myers extended the Mustangs’ lead with the third goal of the match in the final two minutes of the first period.
Twelve minutes into the second period, Loza assisted on strong-legged Shea Richards’ (Lancaster, CA) team-leading 11th goal of the season for a 4-0 lead.
Hollinger led TMC with three shots on goal, followed by Shea Richards with two. Goalkeeper Ilyssa Espiritu (Bakersfield, CA) demonstrated defensive excellence as the Lady Mustang notched her sixth shutout of the season.
While Saturday marked the last regular-season home match for the Lady Mustangs in 2012, TMC’s season is not over yet. Coach Lewis and his Mustangs face a tall order as the squad travels to No. 23 Concordia (8-6, 3-5 GSAC) on Tuesday, October 23, looking to hold on to the third seed in the upcoming GSAC Tournament. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:00pm.