Entering their 2013 season opener, The Master’s College women’s soccer team knew two key things about the Indiana-based Grace College Lancers: 1.) They are a talented squad (17-5-3 (6-2-1 CL in 2012; 2012 Cornerstone League Champions); and 2.) the Lady Mustangs would have to play all-out, and without showing Grace any mercy.
After 90 minutes of hot, physical competition, the final 4-0 score in favor of the Lady Mustangs (1-0) proved that they were able to overcome the visitor’s elite aura.
“We took advantage of the fact that Grace had quite a few injuries coming in to today’s game and that they probably weren’t used to the heat and turf we have here in Santa Clarita,” commented sixth-year head coach Curtis Lewis. “We proved today that we can move the ball around. I’m pleased with the results we produced.”
Lewis’s “results” began in the first half at the 27:43 mark when Tara Struiksma (Ontario, CA) notched her first goal of the season off of an assist from Jordan Benson (Corona, CA) 25 yards out, putting the Lady Mustangs up 1-0.
“That first goal was fantastic,” said Lewis. “Tara’s hit from far-post was a world-class shot. I’m really proud of her.”
Statistically speaking, it was only a matter of time that the Lady Mustangs would score on the Lancers as they bombarded Grace College’s goalkeeper Carmen Barnhill with 12 shots and four corner kicks in the first half. Standing as a testament to the Lady Mustangs’ ferocity and the Lancers’ perseverance, Barnhill produced a dazzling nine saves after the first 45 minutes of play.
The Lady Mustangs’ offensive barrage didn’t lose steam at the half as Benson put TMC up 2-0 when she capitalized off an assist from Struiksma at the 57:58 mark.
A sister act happened in the 65th minute as Jasmine Benson (Corona, CA) was fed a well-placed pass from twin sibling Jordan, ultimately leading to her first goal of the season and raising the Lady Mustangs lead to 3-0.
Confident in his lead, Lewis opted to give the greener side of his roster some valuable experience in the remaining 25 minutes.
In the 2012-13 offseason, Lewis signed eight new faces to the squad with the high-hopes of producing a strong postseason run. One of those eight additions was the highly-touted Stephanie Albright, hailing from San Gabriel, California. Albright’s strong club and high school career came in to play as the freshmen standout snuck past Grace College’s Barnhill at the 72:41 mark and lobbed the ball in the net, putting the match out of reach at 4-0.
Contradictory to this articles title, the only mercy Grace saw came in the final 18 minutes, when the Lady Mustangs tightened their defense and encouraged their offense to play conservatively, putting the match on ice at 4-0.
“It was a great first game,” further assessed Lewis. “I’m very thankful that we were able to return a lot of the girls we lost last year to injuries. We were even able to get all available Lady Mustangs some valuable playing time.”
Leading the Lady Mustangs on the stat sheet was Jordan Benson, as the senior forward tallied two shots, two shots on goal, two assists, and one goal. Struiksma and Jasmine Benson produced identical results by each recording three shots, one shot on goal, one assist, and one goal. Not to be overlooked was Ilyssa “Yoshi” Espiritu’s stingy goalkeeping, as the senior notched seven saves in the 85:10 minutes she played.
Next up for the Lady Mustangs is a telling road trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will compete in the 2013 Westminster Tournament against Jamestown (ND) on Thursday, August 22, at 1:30 PM, and host Westminster on Saturday, August 24, at noon. Last season, Jamestown went 8-9-2, while the Westminster Griffens went 12-5-1 overall and 3-2-1, earning them votes in the 2012 NAIA Women’s Soccer Coaches’ Postseason Top 25 Poll.
Should Lewis’ Lady Mustangs compete in Salt Lake City and throughout the rest of the season as they did on Thursday at Reese Field, their postseason hopes may become a reality in the late fall. But, the only way that they’ll get there is by continuing to show little grace, and no mercy.