The Saddleback College women’s soccer team won the South Orange County College Cup after defeating the Irvine Valley College Lasers 2-0 at Saddleback’s Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 9.
The SOCC trophy is awarded to the team with the best record, only involving games between the two district rivals. This provided an intense atmosphere, as the teams tied in the first of their two matches.
“It was a hard game at first,” said sophomore forward Wendy Dina. “We started really slow, then the second half changed.”
Prior to kickoff, Saddleback commemorated their 11 sophomores with sunflowers to recognize them for their hard work.
As the contest began, five shots were placed on goal, four from Saddleback and only one from the Lasers, with the game remaining scoreless at half.
The crowd then uproared in the 65th minute when the Gaucho’s Samantha Belmonte sent a rocket from her left foot, escalating the ball over the outstretched arms of the IVC goalkeeper. A much needed second goal of the season for Belmonte energized a momentum swing for the Gauchos. Three minutes later, Saddleback took the game, when freshman midfielder Brittany Kaufman used her head to score her second goal of the season as well.
The way this game played out looked a lot like the season as a whole for the Gauchos. After a slow start losing the first three games, the Gauchos ended the regular season on a high note, winning four of their last five and finishing with an overall record of 10-5-5.
“Stay calm,” said sophomore midfielder Ilaina Brenes-Rodriguez. “But at the same time realize that you have to go into every game with the same intensity.”
Ilaina Brenes-Rodriguez said team bonding is what has fueled the Gaucho’s improvement as the season progressed. Following the win Thursday night, Saddleback has held their opponents scoreless for the 11th time this season, which is just short of the program’s record of 12 set back in 2003. The anchor behind their defensive success is goalkeeper Dz-Rae Jara, who had six saves Thursday and has allowed only 13 goals all year.
After finishing fifth in the Orange Empire Conference and ninth in power point total for Southern California, Saddleback can only wait and look forward to the playoffs, after receiving one of the 19 bids this past weekend.
Regardless of making the playoffs or not, Saddleback will soon be in the process of renovating athletic facilities after entering its 50th season of competition this past August. The gymnasium, baseball field, and new stadium facilities, which include the soccer field, track and two football fields, will all be completed by the start of the 2019 football season.
Preview of 2019 Saddleback College Stadium (Joseph Fleming/Lariat)
The old, on-campus stadium provided bleachers for 4,500 people, while the upcoming, state-of-the-art site will seat 8,000. Along with the SOCC Cup on the line, this was also the final athletic event to take place in Saddleback’s 37-year-old campus stadium before construction of the new 2019 venue.