Chasing the best season – a commentary by Elijah Paniagua

soccer

In a competitive game like soccer, every season can be the best season. For The Master’s College men’s soccer team, the mustangs, my team, the fall of 2015 saw a group full of potential looking forward to their own best season. With an 8-1-1 record in preseason and a fierce desire to win, we entered into the Golden State Athletic Conference, or GSAC, with an almost crazed hunger. This season was ours.

September 23, 2015

Kicking off the GSAC with an away game at defending champions Vanguard (who beat us in the final last year to secure the GSAC trophy) was an invitation to come onto the scene in earnest. If we wanted everyone to fear us we had to win this game. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Defensive lapses and a lack of fire in the front led to a 2-0 defeat. 0-1-0 in GSAC

October 1, 2015

With a chance to bounce back from a poor showing against Vanguard, we drooled at the chance to show the nation that our season opener loss was a fluke. Arizona Christian was no match for us at home as we handed them a 6-0 defeat. 1-1-0 in GSAC

October 3, 2015

After beating Arizona soundly, our next challenge was a home game against GSAC newcomers William Jessup University. We knew we were the better team and we were able to prove it. William Jessup fell 4-0 against our superior offense. 2-1-0 in GSAC

October 7, 2015

Westmont. Everyone who has ever played for the Mustangs has wanted to beat Westmont with every fiber of their being at least once in their life. Playing away, we gave an impressive display of skill that went unrewarded by a goal throughout regulation time. In overtime, a bad penalty call gave Westmont the golden goal to win 1-0. 2-2-0 in GSAC

October 10, 2015

With the sting of defeat still fresh in our hearts we came to a crossroads. Vanguard was coming to our home field. A win would redeem our failures up to this point but a loss condemned us to an uphill battle for a playoff spot. The game was as tight as it could have been with both sides displaying dominance for periods of time. Vanguard took a 1-0 lead but we stole back a goal in the late minutes of the game to take it into overtime. Moments into overtime, a brilliant display of skill from Benjamin Tembo gave Humphrey Mahowa the game-winning goal. When the ball flew into the back of the net, the crowd erupted, the players charged the field and there was tumultuous celebration for hours for the victory over our toughest competition. 3-2-0 in GSAC

October 15, 2015

In any sport, the greatest teams always face the peril of arrogance. We travelled to Menlo thinking we were the best in the GSAC. Menlo showed us we weren’t even the best in Menlo. Our overconfidence led to us barely scraping out a 1-1 tie after double overtime expired. 3-2-1 in GSAC

October 17, 2015

Travelling to William Jessup for another replay in conference gave us the chance to shake off our arrogance and play the way we knew we could. William Jessup challenged us on a cold, rainy day, but in the end, our talent overcame their hard work and we won 3-0. 4-2-1 in GSAC

October 21, 2015

In TMC soccer culture, San Diego Christian is known as a bit of an archrival. Though historically San Diego had never really been a top three team that often, they always gave us trouble. Even when they were losing, they would still fight, hit, scratch, and battle for every blade of grass on the field. We, the superior team on paper, gave San Diego the chance to take us on through our foolhardy underestimation of them. We suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat. 4-3-1 in GSAC

October 24, 2015

Finally, the classic rivalry, TMC vs. Biola. For many athletes, this rivalry game was the biggest they ever participated in. We played as though our mistakes against San Diego had never been a problem. In one of our best team performances of the year, we held off first place Biola to secure a 2-1 win in overtime. 5-3-1 in GSAC

October 31, 2015

The regular season was coming to an end. Our mistakes earlier in the season made this last GSAC game a must win. Triumph would take us into fourth place where we would have a home game in the GSAC quarterfinals. A loss would drop us into fifth where playoffs would be an uphill battle on the road. Though we produced a lackluster performance, a spectacular goal by Zach Klindworth took the game into overtime where won on a penalty goal from Lloyd Virgill. 6-3-1 in GSAC

November 6, 2015: GSAC Quarterfinals

Our last win gave us a home game against San Diego who humiliated us earlier in the season. In this GSAC quarterfinal game, revenge was at hand. With the chance to knock San Diego out of playoffs, the locker room was a tense knot of anticipation and nerves. We managed to put together a good team performance reminiscent of our overtime defeat of Biola to put San Diego away 2-1.

November 12, 2015: GSAC Semifinals

For the third time in as many months we were to play Vanguard. The same Vanguard who opened our regular season with a shutout loss. The same Vanguard who beat us in the GSAC final last year. It was fair to say there was a lot at stake that night. Emotions ran high in a game where we utterly dominated our opposition for a majority of the game. The story of our season was summed up in this game. We were the better team, whether in paper or on the field, but we couldn’t find a goal to prove it. In a game where we hit the frame of the goal twice on top of nine other shots on goal, we only scored once. Vanguard scored twice. Our hearts shattered when the final whistle blew. In the few seconds it took Vanguard to score the game-winning goal in overtime, our season came to a crashing halt. Bitter tears filled the eyes of every Mustang that night.

—–

This was supposed to be our best season. Unfortunately, we fell short when it mattered most. In a mostly successful season pockmarked with egregious failures, we couldn’t live up to the hype. Often that’s how sports go. All-star teams don’t win every game and we ended up losing the one that we couldn’t afford to drop. But there’s always next year and it looks like 2016 could be our best season yet.

By Elijah Paniagua

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