Brett Croft booted in a pair of penalty kicks to lift The Master’s College past San Diego Christian 2-0 Wednesday afternoon in a first-round game of the GSAC Men’s Soccer Tournament in El Cajon.
The surprising victory to everyone but Coach Jim Rickard and his squad propelled the sixth-seeded Mustangs into the conference semifinals where they’ll face top-seeded Concordia on Saturday afternoon. The win also avenged a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Hawks October 19.
In a first half dominated by the third-seeded Hawks, at least from a shots on goal perspective, it was goalie Kyle Cunningham (Saugus, CA) and the defense that came up big to keep the hosts off the scoreboard. In a seven-minute span midway through the opening stanza, Cunningham turned away all four of the Hawks’ first-half shots on goal.
Meanwhile, the Mustang offense, facing what Rickard called a “very good team with lots of skill all over field”, couldn’t generate anything and didn’t put a shot on goal during the first 45 minutes.
However much that frustrated Rickard, the 23rd-year head coach was still pleased, saying, “that his team had a good game plan and did a great job sticking to it.”
Their ability to do so against an increasingly frustrated Hawk squad (four yellow cards) finally paid off in the match’s 66th minute when freshman Zach Klindworth (Valencia, CA) was taken down in the penalty box on a breakaway. Awarded a penalty kick, the Mustangs turned to junior Brett Croft (Hesperia, CA) who calmly zipped the ball past Hawk goalie Cameron Riley for a 1-0 lead at the 65:16 mark.
The Hawks tried to knot the match in the 72nd minute (71:20) but Cunningham made a save on an Emmanuel Prada shot to preserve the lead. The Mustangs almost doubled their lead but a Kevin Scheunemann shot at the 86:45 mark was saved by Riley.
As the match neared its end, the Hawks grew even more desperate and that showed in the final minute (89:08) when Klindworth broke away again and was taken down in the box again, resulting in a red card and another penalty kick.
Croft was called on once again and as he did almost 24 minutes earlier, he ripped the ball past a diving Riley for a 2-0 lead that became the final less than a minute later.
Aided by the penalty kick, the Mustangs posted a 4-3 advantage in shots on goal over the final 45 minutes of play while the defense helped Cunningham record his second shutout of the campaign.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to GSAC regular-season champion Concordia, a club that beat the Mustangs twice in conference play, both times by one goal. Kick-off in the tourney semifinal is set for 2:00pm on Saturday in Irvine. At stake is a berth in the GSAC championship game on November 16.