SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- No matter the sport, the Golden State Athletic Conference boasts some of the toughest competition in the NAIA. That's why when the postseason comes around, it's really anyone's game to secure the highly-coveted GSAC Tournament Champion title.
This was the case on Tuesday afternoon when The Master's College women's soccer team took to Reese Field against a competitive San Diego Christian College squad in the first round of the 2013 GSAC Women's Soccer Tournament.
With the slightest advantage, TMC entered the tournament opener with a No. 4 seed, while the Hawks carried a No. 5 seed.
So, with all that in mind, Lady Mustang head coach Curtis Lewis knew that Tuesday's showdown was going to be a battle.
At the end of 90 minutes TMC defeated San Diego Christian 2-0, earning a green light to take on No. 1 seeded Concordia in the GSAC Tournament semifinals on Friday.
But don't let the shutout fool you. Reese Field's tournament opener followed suit by being a defensive battle to the very end.
"Credit to San Diego Christian," commented Lady Mustang head coach Curtis Lewis. "They organized defensively, gave great pressure, and were hard to break down. They have a couple of All-GSAC players, but their whole team boasts tough competitors."
The Hawks' defense came out in full force and kept TMC's offense at bay for 41 minutes until Katie Farris (Santa Clarita, CA) broke the silence off a Whitney Gomillion (Lancaster, CA) assist, giving the Lady Mustangs a 1-0 advantage.
That 1-0 lead carried the Lady Mustangs into the half as TMC's offense outshot the Hawks 8-1, forcing Amanda Massey, San Diego Christian's goalkeeper, to handle five saves.
Acting almost as a mirror to the first half, the defensive battle resumed after the break for the opening 25 minutes until Natasha Coyle (La Habra, CA) scored an unassisted goal, giving TMC a 2-0 lead.
Coyle's goal would be the last point scored in the tournament opener as the Lady Mustangs corralled the Hawks' best efforts, sealing the 2-0 victory.
Now, San Diego's season concludes with a 9-8-1 (3-6-1 GSAC) record, while TMC's 2013 record improves to 15-4 (6-4 GSAC).
Taking in to consideration the fact that TMC narrowly outshot the Hawks 13-8, an admiration for the Lady Mustangs' offense and a respect for San Diego Christian's defense cannot be overlooked.
Leading TMC's efforts was Farris with 3 goals, 3 shots on goal, and 1 goal, while Coyle closely followed with 3 shots, 2 shots on goal, and the day's final tally. Senior goalkeeper Ilyssa Espiritu (Bakersfield) handled 2 saves and was credited with the day's win.
"Katie and Natasha came up big with their goals today," said Lewis. "Today wasn't our strongest day, but in playoffs, all that matters is getting the win. From here, we'll regroup and hopefully play some quality soccer on Friday."
And while the Lady Mustangs can revel in the fact that they will live to play another day, Friday's 2:00 p.m. meeting with Concordia (14-0-3, 9-0-1 GSAC), the tournament's No. 1 seed, looms in the horizon.