Biola scored 15 minutes into the game and held on late to pull off a 2-1 upset win over No. 14 Westmont College in a GSAC Semifinal match on Saturday afternoon in Santa Barbara, earning its first-ever trip to the GSAC Finals.
The Eagles pick up their sixth-straight win to improve to 12-6-1 on the season while dropping the Warriors to 12-5-1. Biola advances to the GSAC Tournament Finals, facing No. 5 Vanguard University in Costa Mesa on Friday at 2:00 p.m. The Eagles need to win the tournament title to earn the GSAC automatic berth the NAIA Tournament.
Junior Jessica Austin came up big for the Eagles, assisting on both Biola goals with great passes from the end line to Biola players in the box.
"It's been a while since we've had a win this big," said Head Coach Todd Elkins. "Today's game couldn't have been more different that when we played here a month ago. We played confident and our style. When we played them before it was real tentative, like we were intimated, cautious not a lot of belief in who we are."
The Eagles got on the board with a goal in the 16th minute. Biola was defending in its end, but won the ball and passed it ahead to Austin at midfield. The junior took the ball down the side line, guarded by a Westmont defender all the way to the end line. Just before going out of bounds along the end line, Austin centered a pass to the middle of the box where Ashleigh Cooley had an easy shot into the net to give Biola the lead.
Biola held off the Westmont attack and took the 1-0 lead to the half, holding Westmont's offense to just five shots--one on frame.
The Eagles struck again 16 minutes into the second half, Austin again took the ball down the sideline to the end line and sent a ball into the box. The Westmont goalkeeper attempted to come off her line and stop the cross. However, she missed the ball and Chrissy King was right there to drive it home and give Biola a 2-0 lead.
The Warriors were able to cut into the lead in the 79th minute as Jenny Martinez sent home a loose ball in front of the net to make it 2-1.
But Biola's defense held strong the rest of the way and the Eagles pulled out an impressive win to advance to the finals.
"It was huge to get up in the first half, to score first on the road," said Elkins. "It helped remove any possible doubt. Not only are we competing, but we are now winning. And when you get the lead, your defense and your keeper have something more to fight for."
The Eagles picked up their 12th win of the season--the third-best win total in program history and the most wins since the 2004 season. Biola is making its first appearance in the GSAC Tournament Championship game since a conference tournament started in 2008.
Prior to that, NAIA Tournament qualification was done through regional tournament. The Eagles reached the regional finals in 2003, losing 1-0 to Westmont. Biola has made the NAIA Tournament just once, that coming in 2004 where the team reached the NAIA Quarterfinals.
The GSAC Tournament championship kicks-off on Friday, November 9 at 2:00 p.m. with Vanguard hosting by virtue of winning its first-ever GSAC regular-season title. Biola is the only GSAC team to score a goal against the Lions this season as Jessica Austin scored on a breakaway in a 2-1 loss to the Lions in mid-October. The Eagles have had the Lions' number of the last seven years, holding a 6-1-2 record against Vanguard since 2005.