El Cajon, CA — The phrase “playoff implications” had everything to do with Wednesday’s GSAC soccer match in El Cajon and will again later this week.
Although host San Diego Christian had nothing to gain in the conference standings, they had everything to do with preventing The Master’s College from doing the same, playing the role of spoiler in a 2-1 regular-season ending victory over the disappointed Mustangs.
Coupled with wins from Westmont and Vanguard, the loss (5-4-1 GSAC, 9-8-1 overall) dropped the Mustangs (16 points) out of sole possession of third place into a fourth-place tie with Vanguard. And, lurking just behind the Mustangs is Biola (14 points). The Lions and Eagles play their regular-season finales on Saturday and depending on the results the Mustangs could stay in fourth place or drop all the way to sixth in advance of next Wednesday’s GSAC Tournament openers.
It started so well for the Mustangs when Zach Klindworth (Valencia, CA) took a long pass from Brett Croft (Hesperia, CA) and sent it past Hawk goalie Josh Epstein at the 14:23 mark of the first half. It was Klindworth’s third goal of the year and Croft’s fifth assist. That was the last score of the afternoon for a Mustang squad that Coach Jim Rickard described as “flat and lethargic.”
However, the Hawks weren’t exactly on their game either, managing just one shot on goal in the opening stanza and that was stopped by Kyle Cunningham (Saugus, CA) at the 22:12 mark.
The Mustangs almost doubled their advantage 22 seconds into the second half but Epstein stopped a shot by Humphrey Mahowa (Malawi, Africa) and four minutes (49:21) later the Hawks capitalized when Francisco Ramirez, off a pass from Pedro Henrique, beat Cunningham to even the match.
Putting four shots on goal in the second half, the Mustangs had a couple of chances to go back in front but Epstein turned back shots from Darren Lightfoot (Colorado Springs, CO) at 60:08 and Lloyd Virgill (Guatemala City, Guatemala) at 67:18.
Meanwhile, Cunningham had his hands full, preserving the tie a couple of times before Henrique scored the tie-breaking goal at 70:44.
The Mustangs had one more shot, literally, just over nine minutes later (79:54) when Austin Rochow (Canyon Country, CA) sent one toward Epstein who turned it away to further frustrate the visitors.
Disappointed with the loss and his team’s play, Rickard said, “We really lacked the maturity and discipline necessary to win at a tough venue.”
However, looking ahead to next week’s (November 5) GSAC Tournament first-round match, Rickard was optimistic about his squad’s chances, saying, “With this game behind us,we are excited for the playoffs and look forward to preparing for next Wednesday.”