Santa Clarita, CA -- For the second time in three matches, senior All-GSAC defender Joey Mikulas provided the winning margin, this time with a penalty kick in the 71st minute that propelled the Mustangs (13-4-2) past San Diego Christian 2-1 in a GSAC Tournament first-round game on Reese Field.
The win secured a spot in the conference semifinals for the Mustangs next Thursday when they'll play second-seeded Vanguard in La Mirada, home of tourney host Biola.
Mustang head coach Jim Rickard praised his team's play, saying, "I'm very proud of the players to battle a very tough opponent in San Diego Christian. We kept working hard and maintained our composure in a high-pressure game."
Mikulas' (Monument, CO) opportunity came after a Hawk foul in the box on Humphrey Mahowa (Lilongwe, Malawi) at 70:32. Lining up from 12 yards out, Mikulas calmly put the ball past Hawk goalie Josh Epstein for his fourth goal of the season and the game-winner. It was the Mustangs' third penalty kick conversion in as many tries this season.
A little over seven minutes later (79:40), Casey Phillips (Granada Hills, CA) preserved the one-goal margin and the victory as the sophomore keeper turned back a shot by Juan Davi-Arrieta for his only save of the final stanza and his second of the match. Phillips improved to 9-4-2.
In a rough match that featured eight yellow cards and one red, the Mustangs broke out on top first in the 27th minute (26:31) when Benjamin Tembo (Lilongwe, Malawi) took the ball off a Trevor Mangan (Saugus, CA) block and shot it past Epstein for a 1-0 lead. It was Tembo's second goal of his freshman year.
That one-goal margin stood up for nearly 10 minutes (36:23) until Hawk Sebastian Carrion shot one past Phillips to knot the match. It stayed that way through halftime and into the second frame until Mikulas' heroics paved the way for the victory.
The Mustangs led with a 20-7 margin in shots, including an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to their semi-final match next Thursday against 13th-ranked Vanguard, a club they split two games with this season. They were shut out by the Lions 2-0 on September 23 before stunning the then-No. 3 team in the country 2-1 on an overtime goal by Mahowa on October 10.
Next Thursday's game at Biola is scheduled for a 7:30pm kickoff.