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Warriors Circle the Wagons in First Loss

By Brandon Petersen, 10/08/19, 9:30AM PDT

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The Westcliff University women’s soccer team’s unbelievable first-year undefeated run came to an end Monday on Field 25 at OC Great Park in a 2-1 loss to St. Katherine.

The setback just didn't feel fair after an extremely physical match left the Warriors without keeper Abby Craig following a collision with a teammate on a save.

Westcliff was up 1-0 at the time, but with a short bench, the Warriors had to call on sweeper Alyssa Lucio to take Craig’s spot in goal.

Lucio filled in admirably, corralling five saves in all, but Dianna Garcia’s penalty kick in the 81st minute sealed the deal, and ended the Warriors’ improbable streak.

 “A lot can be said about a team when they are winning games, but more can be said about a team when they lose,” Westcliff head coach Joey O’Keefe said. “Having been on this amazing streak, and then taking a loss, the most important thing is how we respond.”

The Warriors were their usual dominant selves to start the match, controlling possession for most of the first half.

Freshman captain Blair Gunderson made it 1-0 in the 32nd minute, after Nelly Galeana found an opening in the box, and scooted a pass toward the streaking Gunderson, who planted the rock firmly in net.

Up a score at the break, things looked right on schedule for another win, but the Craig injury ignited a series of physical plays that left the Warriors shocked and reeling.

At one point, Rebecca Gonzales went down after a collision and had to be carried off the field, sparking a swing in momentum that St. Katherine took advantage of.

With Craig and Gonzales missing, the Warriors battled on, refusing to give an inch despite missing two of their most valuable players.

It’s that cohesion in the face of adversity which speaks to the character of Westcliff.

“We just got really close to each other and now we’d die for each other,” Claudia Alvarez said. “They are my ride-or-dies, I’m so proud of my teammates. I’m speechless, I can’t find the words to put together to describe how happy and proud I am.”

Alvarez spoke about the Warriors’ propensity to pick each other up when they are down, and was proud of her squad for not quitting when things went wrong.

“We put up a good fight,” she said. “We possessed the ball very well. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go in.”

After the contest, O’Keefe received a great compliment from St. Katherine head coach Katie Ritchie.

“To hear another coach tell me after the game, ‘I don’t know how a culture is developed of girls who will die for each other on the field, but I envy it,’ I love to hear that,” O’Keefe said. “No coach can teach that. It’s just a group of girls who came together and formed something special.”

The Warriors now have an opportunity for a little payback, as next up on the docket is none other than the Firebirds in San Diego, next Wednesday (Oct. 17).

“Expect a fight,” Alvarez said. “We’re fired up. We’re not going to go back there and lose to them.”

Kickoff at St. Katherine is scheduled for 1 p.m.

To contact Brandon Petersen, e-mail brandonpetersen@westcliff.edu.