Funny thing about losing.
It makes you better.
After a preseason that included matchups with two nationally-ranked opponents, the Westcliff women’s soccer team took their lumps, but in the process, began to fully understand what it takes to compete against the highest levels of NAIA competition.
That experience paid off a week later in Arizona, where Westcliff pulled off an undefeated three-step, knocking off Park University (12-0) and Benedictine University (3-1), while battling to a 3-3 deadlock with Ottawa University.
“The girls have surprised the entire region, and quite frankly have surprised themselves with how well they have started off,” Westcliff head coach Joey O’Keefe said. “Going into Arizona, we had two of our toughest matchups of the whole year, both against nationally-ranked opponents, and our ladies fought well.
“It was a good opportunity to find out what it will take to get a win, and how difficult it is to get a win at this level.”
Now that the Warriors have that knowledge – and a pair of dubs – in their back pocket, they will look to keep the hot streak alive Friday against Cal Miramar at the OC Soccer Club Championship Soccer Stadium at the Great Park in Irvine.
Sandra Nantunbwe (No. 10) has scored nine goals in the past three games for the Warriors and O’Keefe calls her an attacking force to be reckoned with.
Nantunbwe is part of a threesome of Warriors who hail from the same junior college in Oklahoma.
Along with Nantunbwe, keeper Abby Craig (No. 1) and outside back Cheyenne Wood (No. 17), are all performing at standout levels thus far this season.
“Wood’s got pace, and she’s a great quiet leader on the field,” O’Keefe said. “She leads by example and does a great job of it."
O’Keefe sang the praises of Craig as well, calling the keeper fantastic.
“All three of those girls from Oklahoma are leading the charge for what we’re doing,” O’Keefe said.
Another player to look out for Friday is center-mid Nelly Galena (No. 5), a skilled tactician who makes her presence felt, especially on the defensive end.
“Galena is an absolute technical monster,” O’Keefe said. “She destroys. She plays at a level most girls can only look at and hope they can get to one day.
The Orange County Soccer Club Championship Soccer Stadium is the home of Warriors soccer and can be found in your Google Maps at 8272 Great Park Blvd, Irvine, CA 92618.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday night.
To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.