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Warriors Find Purpose on the Pitch: Each Other

By Brandon Petersen, 09/19/19, 10:15AM PDT


It was 110 minutes of grueling competition between two teams that refused to give an inch.

After it was over, several Warriors were laid out, besieged by wrenching cramps as Westcliff trainer Emma Connelly rushed from patient to patient like a triage nurse.

Head coach Joey O’Keefe looked around at his team with a knowing smile, as if he’d won the national championship.

In the end, it was just a 0-0 tie with La Sierra University, but Wednesday night on the Championship Stadium pitch at OC Great Park, the Westcliff women’s soccer team had found something more important than a win.

The Warriors found their purpose.   

“We go into every match never assuming that we’ve got the crutch of being a first-year program,” O’Keefe said. “They’ve got a chip on their shoulder to prove every game that they’ve got something worth fighting for.”

Turns out they do – each other.

Having spent all night under fire from the Golden Eagles, goalkeeper Abby Craig was once again staring down the barrel of a La Sierra onslaught when an Eagle broke away deep in Westcliff’s zone for a would-be game-winning one-on-one opportunity in the second overtime.

But Shay Winterfeld refused to let Craig down, and rushed into the backfield and battled toward the box for a tackle that sent the shot askew.

Moments earlier, Rebecca Gonzales, who had played wire-to-wire tirelessly, and without an ounce of fear, raced up the right wing, booted a pass to herself around her defender and went all-out to the wing where her picture-perfect cross was met by a stone wall.

Stories like these went on and on Wednesday night.

Sandra Nantunbwe and Blair Gunderson worked the wings all night looking for a crack they could exploit.

Nelly Galeana (game-high eight shots) threatened up top again and again, never tiring or letting up, despite multiple attempts that didn’t connect.

Alyssa Lucio spent the second overtime period limping around midfield with severe cramping that started near the end of regulation.

She could barely move, yet she refused to let her teammates down.

“It continuously blows me away, the effort the girls are willing to go through,” O’Keefe said. “The multitude of girls who cramp up after the game, as a coach, it just shows you how much hard work they put in.”

The Warriors didn’t get the win Wednesday night.

They got something more important.

Something worth fighting for.

Westcliff (4-0-1) heads back out onto the Championship Stadium pitch Saturday night for a meeting with Providence Christian.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail