The Saddleback women’s soccer team wins 2-1 against Fullerton on Tuesday night at the Irvine Great Park, Nov. 5.
Saddleback women’s soccer team. Credit: Mariana Lopez Meza
Beginning of the first half, Fullerton College looked like they had the game in the bag, scoring 1-0 in the first 19 minutes. Fullerton was having ten wins in the season so far and raking 14th National, 10th in the State; they were ready to defeat the opposing team.
But Saddleback did not let them take the win. With 13 minutes away from half time, the Gauchos scored the second goal of the night, putting the game in a 1-1 tie. Paige Vitolo played an essential role throughout the game, this being her 10th goal of the season and giving the team an energy boost for the remaining time.
“My mindset going into the game is to stay calm,” says Vitolo, who plays the forward position. “I always try to have fun and smile with my teammates pre-warm up, so I don’t focus too much on the game and overthink it before we even start playing.”
Every successful team depends on technical and tactical elements, but for Saddleback, those are not the essential factors. The coaches find the key to success in maintaining a positive and supportive team culture. Before every game, the girls get partnered up into teams of two called “Battle Buddy.” This helps the team’s
performance allowing the girls to relax connect with each other.
“I love the way our players work for each other and sacrifice for the greater good,” says BJ McNicol, head coach of the women’s soccer team. “Our motto this year is humility, hard work, and teamwork, and we saw all of that tonight.”
During half time, it seemed like the match would end with a tie, but the Gauchos gathered to change the game plan and take the win. After the 86th minute, Paige Vitolo scored the third goal of the night, making Saddleback the lead 2-1. This is Vitolo’s 11th goal of the season, defeating Fullerton by one point.
“After scoring the second goal, I felt ecstatic,” says Vitolo. “I always turn back to my teammates because, without them, it couldn’t be possible. Them coming over to give hugs and high fives lets me know we all did the job, and I was there to finish it off.”
The story repeated itself last October when the Saddleback Gauchos played against the Hornets and took the win 2-1. It’s the 18th match of the season where Saddleback takes home their 9th victory.
“We are excited for the chance to still compete for the OEC Championship, which we are now in 3rd place,” says McNicol. “We can finish in 2nd if we win all our remaining games.”
If they continue their winning streak, Gauchos has the opportunity to head to the CCCAA playoffs. The team is looking forward to give it everything they have and work hard for the title. Saddleback will play against Orange Coast College at the Lebard Stadium on Tuesday, Nov. 12.