Two top OEC teams battle a close one

Saddleback keeper Angelica Ramos saves a Santiago Canyon shot. The Gauchos won the game 1-0 behind a goal from Brittney Stevens. (Hailey Weddington/Lariat)

Saddleback keeper Angelica Ramos saves a Santiago Canyon shot. The Gauchos won the game 1-0 behind a goal from Brittney Stevens. (Hailey Weddington/Lariat)

Saddleback College women’s soccer entered the 2015 season having never defeated Santiago Canyon College, whether it be at home or away, in the program’s 15-year history.

After Tuesday’s win, the Gauchos have know defeated Hawks twice this season..

Saddleback College (15-3-2) edged conference leader Santiago Canyon 1-0 on Nov. 10 on Santiago’s turf in Orange. The lone goal of the game came from sophomore midfielder Brittney Stevens. The play was developed by sophomore defender Brittany Bartle.

Bartle launched the ball down the line only to have it kicked back to her by a Santiago player. She crossed the ball to Stevens who had a clear shot at the goal and booted it in to put her team up 1-0 at the 22nd minute of the first half.

This turned out be all Saddleback needed to clinch the victory.

“This is a huge win,” Bartle said. “I think the mentality going into any game is just to win, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, just win and play as a team and fight as a team.”

The Gauchos were on their heels during the second half, protecting their one-goal lead.

The Gaucho’s lassoed the high-scoring Hawks for a second straight time this season. Saddleback’s keeper Angelica Ramos closed the door on Santiago Canyon (16-2-2) seven times over the course of the game.

“We knew they were quick,” Ramos said. “We knew they were going to try and get through us in the middle to split the ball so I was just focused on getting off my line as quickly as I could.”

During the second half, as the Gauchos were holding the lead, players were getting heated as the refs kept the whistles in their pocket. Five separate Saddleback players had to walk off the field and be looked at by trainers for various reasons.

The Gauchos battled to protect the net as Santiago was buzzing around the net. During the four-minute injury stoppage time the Hawks sustained pressure in Saddleback territory.

“They put their bodies literally on the line to try and do everything they can to keep the ball from going in,” Ramos said. “From the forwards down to the defense, I want to honor them for sacrificing their bodies for 90 minutes. And I don’t want to let anything in for the team because they are putting everything out there.”

While this was a big win for the Gauchos, they now turn their attention to their rivals Irvine Valley College. The team focuses on carrying this momentum into the regular season finale.

“We want to continue this momentum and finish strong,” said head coach BJ McNicol. “We have a couple girls that are banged up, so we will look to rest some players and then see if we can finish in the second spot and start focusing on playoffs.”

Saddleback finishes the 2015 season at Irvine Valley College at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13.

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