A come-from-behind, 2-1 road victory over Menlo on Saturday earned The Master’s University Mustangs men’s soccer (8-7-1 overall, 5-3 GSAC) the second seed in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament and a subsequent first-round bye.
Not bad for a team picked to finish seventh in the conference going into the season.
“I don’t think anyone in the conference would have predicted this,” Mustangs head coach Jim Rickard said. “After being ranked in the preseason to finish seventh, the guys used that as motivation to constantly try to improve. I’m very proud of how far they have come while seeking to honor the Lord with their play. It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t all gone to plan, but they have given everything they have.”
Not much separated the teams in the first half, with each team recording just two shots, until Menlo broke the deadlock with just over a minute remaining before the interval.
“We played a solid first half with some decent chances and held Menlo to just a couple shots, but we had a miscue and went into halftime down 1-0,” Rickard said. “In the second half, we tried to pressure them a little more.”
Prince Chingancheke tied the game for Master’s in the 57th minute, after he latched onto a flick header from Aidan Rohde. Chingancheke then calmly lifted the ball up and over the Oaks’ goalkeeper to level the score.
Less than eight minutes later, Rohde turned from provider to scorer, scoring what proved to be the game-winner. Theo Kudlo took a free kick from beyond midfield, switching a perfectly lofted ball to Paul Kopp, who headed back across the box for Rohde to volley home.
Rohde is now tied with Giorgio Martino for the team lead in both goals (5) and assists (4).
After No. 23 Ottawa University Arizona defeated Arizona Christian University in overtime, it opened the door for the Mustangs to move up from the fourth seed to the second seed with a win, by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Menlo. The Mustangs took advantage, preventing the Oaks from equalizing and preserving the one-goal victory.
“Kian Bensend was very composed in goal and dealt with Menlo’s crosses and shots with precision,” Rickard said. “The back line kept fighting back each attack. The mids showed great composure with key passing and the forwards converted some quality chances.”
The victory marked the third-straight win for the Mustangs to finish the conference regular season.
“It was an amazing last two conference games in Northern California, with the team giving me and each other every ounce they had,” Rickard said.
The Mustangs will now await their GSAC semifinal opponent. TMU will take on the highest remaining seed in the first semifinal, scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. The GSAC Tournament will be hosted by Vanguard University, which is the top seed after winning the regular season championship.