This wasn’t the way Curtis Lewis and his gang of Lady Mustangs envisioned their season ending. They were intent on finishing it the first week of December at the NAIA National Tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Instead, it ended on a quiet Saturday afternoon when visiting Cal State San Marcos walked on to Reese Field and shut out the Mustangs 1-0 in an NAIA National Championship Opening Round match. The loss ended the Mustangs’ season at 15-6.
Back on September 21, the Mustangs used two second-half goals and eight Ilyssa Espritu (Bakersfield, CA) saves to blank the Cougars 2-0. More than two months later, the only similarity to that match was the eight stops made by Espiritu in a sparkling effort.
Unfortunately, on the other end, the Mustangs couldn’t put the ball between the pipes with the six shots they put on goal. All-GSAC midfielder Jasmine Benson (Corona, CA) had a chance at the 36:01 mark of the first half but Cougar goalie Amanda Sears made the save.
Just 3:24 later, the Cougars didn’t miss their opportunity when Jennifer Hager headed one past Espiritu for the match’s lone goal. The Cougars held a 4-1 edge in shots on goal at the half and Espiritu had a trio of saves.
It didn’t take long for the Mustangs to equal their first-half shots on goal total in the second period when Jasmine Benson fired one at Sears at the 46:43 mark, but the Cougar goalie turned it away.
Meanwhile, the Cougars continued to assault the Mustang net in the first 18 minutes of the second half but Espiritu was up to the task, making four saves in that span.
In the closing minutes, the Mustangs had two final chances but a pair of shots by All-GSAC forward Natasha Coyle at 88:18 and 89:01, respectively, were saved by Sears.
Gracious in defeat, Lewis credited the Cougars and Coach Ron Pulvers, saying, “…CSUSM had a game plan and stuck to it and it worked for them. We really had an off game today and the long break (15 days) hurt us.
“Overall we had a great season and I’m very proud of the girls. It was a bummer to play like we did for our final game when we have been so great this season.
“But God is sovereign and we will praise Him in the wins and losses. This has been a fantastic year, the second-best in program history and I am proud to have coached these ladies.”