Santa Clarita, CA – Just when it was looking bleak, TMC’s Jasmine Benson lifted the spirits of her teammates and fans alike, scoring two second-half goals to propel the Mustangs past Concordia 2-1 in the GSAC Tournament opener Tuesday afternoon on Reese Field.
The come-from-behind victory advanced the Mustangs (12-5-2) to Friday’s conference tournament semi-finals where they will play at top-seeded and regular-season GSAC champion Vanguard.
The Mustangs were in comeback mode from the 12th minute (11:23) of the match when Concordia’s Bri Lopez, off an assist from Val Barrios, put one past Mustang keeper Ilyssa Espiritu for a 1-0 lead. The goal typified the play of the visiting Eagles who continually pressured the Mustang defense and Espiritu during a strong first half.
Espiritu, who turned back shots off the feet of Megan Daniels and Taylor Benton later in the first stanza, ended up with those two saves during the opening 45 minutes.
The Mustangs weren’t without their chances. In fact, they outshot the Eagles 5-4 and made Concordia goalie Bekah Garvin make three saves in the final 15-plus minutes of the opening half. Two of those shots came from leading scorer Shea Richards (Palmdale, CA) and the other was off the foot of Benson (Corona, CA) but the Mustangs still trailed at the break by the slightest of margins.
That pattern of shots carried over into the second half as Benson and the Mustang offense got untracked. The sophomore midfielder had one shot turned back by Garvin just two minutes into the stanza and her teammates continued to pepper the Eagle goal over the next 15 minutes. But, Garvin was up to the task, making three more saves in that window.
But, she could only hold up so long under the assault and the Mustangs finally broke through at the 64:18 mark when Benson took a ball that bounced off a couple of Eagle defenders and sent it by Garvin into the right side of the net for the tying score. It was Benson’s eighth goal of the campaign
The Eagles almost snapped the tie five minutes later but Espiritu came up with a big save off a shot by Barrios in the 70th minute.
The next few minutes proved to be uneventful and overtime loomed until Benson stepped up again.
Following a long cross by Ashley Andrade (Las Vegas, NV) that bounced around in front, Benson went into to slide-tackle mode to keep the ball away from an Eagle defender and in the process slowly rolled it past Garvin, off the right post, and into the net for the go-ahead goal with 12:26 left to play.
That proved to be enough because the Eagles never really threatened the rest of the way. Benson nearly notched a hat trick but Garvin made a nice save just three minutes later.
With the thrilling victory behind them, the Mustangs now take to the road where they’ll play a Vanguard squad that beat them in heartbreaking fashion 1-0 on October 9.