Irvine, Calif. — Something had to give Wednesday afternoon in Irvine when two of the nation’s top squads, 11th-ranked The Master’s and No. 16 Concordia met in a midseason GSAC showdown.
On one hand, the Mustangs had ripped off 10 straight wins to start the 2013 campaign and goalie Ilyssa Espiritu (Bakersfield, CA) had posted three consecutive shutouts. On the other, the Eagles had won six in a row, including the last four by shutout.
So, all the signs pointed to a close, low-scoring battle as each squad vied to keep a share of first place in the conference.
Instead, just the opposite happened, at least for the Eagles, who scored once in the first half and three more times in the second en route to a 4-1 triumph over the Mustangs. It was the most goals Espiritu and her teammates had given up in a match this season as the Mustangs fell to 10-1 overall and 2-1 in the GSAC.
And, it didn’t take long for the Eagles to snap Espiritu’s impressive shutout skein, scoring with just 5:20 gone in the first half on a shot by Lauren Nanez from five yards out. It was the first goal scored against Espiritu in 278:32 and, as a testament to their marvelous start, it was the first time the Mustangs had trailed in 2013.
That score stood up for over 33 minutes as the Mustangs failed to put a shot on goal through the first 36 minutes of play. Their first one came on a Jasmine Benson (Corona, CA) shot at the 36:13 mark that was saved by Eagle keeper Jazmin Alvarez.
However, just over two minutes later (38:32) they made their second one count when Gabrielle Arnone (Castaic, CA) rebounded her header that had been blocked and sent it by Alvarez into the left slot to knot things up. It was the sophomore’s first career goal.
That’s the way the first half ended although Nanez nearly unlocked the tie with a shot that Espiritu turned back with 32 ticks left on the clock. The Eagles went to the break with a 9-4 edge in shots and Espiritu finished with four saves in the first 45 minutes.
What Nanez couldn’t do, teammate Lizette Cui did when she broke the tie 3:05 into the second half with a header off a corner kick that got past Espiritu, scoring what proved to be the winning goal.
On a rainy afternoon in southern Orange County, that seemed to open the floodgates as the Eagles tallied twice more over the next 23 minutes to turn a closely-fought battle into a runaway.
After another Jasmine Benson shot was saved by Alvarez in the match’s 56th minute, Nanez struck again just over nine minutes later (63:54), taking a long crossing through ball on the right side and slamming it past Espiritu into the left corner of the net for a 3-1 lead.
Then, less than seven minutes later (71:16), the Eagles put the game out of reach as Elizabeth Abt one-touched a cross past Espiritu into the left corner again for a three-goal advantage.
The Mustangs just could not get the offense untracked in the second stanza, managing just one shot on goal in the match’s final 34 minutes while Espiritu had to make a couple of saves down the stretch just to keep the score close.
Overall, the Mustangs were outshot 17-8, including an 11-4 disadvantage on shots on goal. In defeat, Espiritu made seven saves, her second-highest total of the year.
Hoping to shake off their first defeat, the Mustangs now turn their attention to starting a new streak this Saturday when they return to Reese Field to host Hope International in an 11:00am start.