You could’ve called them the “Wounded Warriors” coming off the field Wednesday afternoon at Vanguard University, where the Westcliff women’s soccer team fell 2-0 to the Lions in a preseason scrimmage.
Whether they were limping, cramping, or laid out on the turf unable to move, this was not the look of a team that took the afternoon off.
“Playing against a top 10 team in the nation, a program that’s won back-to-back-to-back GSAC conferences, I think the girls held their own,” Westcliff Men’s soccer head coach Joey O’Keefe said. “Talking to the (Vanguard) coaches afterward, they said we had way too much athleticism and way too much skill for most first-year programs.”
The underdog, playing in its program’s first-ever contest after only a week together for “Hell Week” conditioning, things could’ve ended up much worse for Westcliff.
But the worst never came.
Instead, the Warriors fought tooth-and-nail for possession most of the game at midfield behind captains Saray Castaneda and Blair Gunderson.
“Coming into the game, a lot of us were very nervous,” Castaneda said. “But I think we got the first-game jitters out of our system. I think we’re going to have a good season.”
Vanguard peppered the box very early on in the first of three half-hour periods, but Westcliff found its footing from there, only allowing a pair of high-difficulty finishes in net, both in the first period.
“I’m incredibly proud of the way the girls competed,” Westcliff Interim Women’s head coach Stephen Campos said. “We showed grit from the first whistle. We’re excited to see the team develop and continue competing against the top teams.”
The rest of the match was played evenly, and Westcliff got its program-first shot-on-goal when Gunderson found herself alone in space nearing the right side of the box.
Gunderson’s booming right-footer aimed for corner left was blocked on the dive by Vanguard’s keeper.
“Really proud of the girls for their effort,” O’Keefe said. “Four or five of the girls cramped up near the end because they were working so hard.”
It looked like Westcliff was building chemistry as well. The team communicated on the field, and looked like it enjoyed playing together.
“I’m happy to be a part of this team,” Castaneda said. “I’m happy with the result today. 2-0 to the No. 5 team in the nation our first game out? Not bad at all.
“We’re excited, and we’re only going to get better from here.”
Westcliff heads out on the road today for the program’s first regular-season contest, a meeting with Antelope Valley University in Lancaster.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.