BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – A double overtime nail-biter was a fitting way for CSU Bakersfield’s women’s soccer team’s regular season to end. The Roadrunners needed just a tie or better to hold off Grand Canyon for second place in the Western Athletic Conference and CSUB earned that tie behind a school Division I record 13 saves from sophomore goalkeeper Jen Padilla.
“That’s probably WAC soccer at its best,” said Gary Curneen, head coach of the ‘Runners. “For us to see the result out and to take that spot is a big deal for this team and a big deal for our program.”
Curneen went on to applaud both Padilla and his defense for their strong performances: “Jen was phenomenal and the true sign of a team is that, whenever they did get past her, there was someone else in there as well. I think Morgan Cole and Mel Cea bailed her out there at the end.”
Padilla’s saves were crucial for CSUB’s tie, but the biggest play of the night came with just two minutes and nine seconds left in the match. A searching ball pulled Padilla off her line to clear it away. The ball fell to another member of the Lopes, Milla Benedetti, who sent a shot to the CSUB goal. The ‘Runner back line cleared the ball off the line to keep the tie intact.
After finishing sixth in the WAC in each of their first three seasons in the league, the ‘Runners earned second place and, more importantly, the second seed in the conference tournament next week. The importance of the second seed lies in the first-round bye CSUB earned. The ‘Runners will meet the winner of the 3/6 matchup between UMKC and UT Rio Grande Valley.
Curneen talked about his team’s outlook on next week’s tournament: “We wanted to get second place, not the second seed. Going into the WAC Tournament, it’s another game, it's another battle. We are used to battles and hopefully we’re conditioned to keep fighting.”
The ‘Runners took an early lead on Saturday night with a goal by redshirt sophomore Aminah Settles in the 12th minute. Sophomore Haley Vicente took a corner kick and found freshman Sophie Freeman, who headed the ball into the middle of the box. Settles’ initial shot was saved by GCU’s keeper, but the rebound came straight to Settles. Bakersfield’s forward put the ball in the back of the net for her fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 CSUB lead.
The two teams played evenly the rest of the first half, but the Lopes came out of halftime with a vengeance. GCU earned a penalty kick after being taken down in the box and the Lopes’ Maria Monterroso put the equalizer away in the 51st minute.
The two teams continued to fight for the game-winning goal, but regulation ended without a goal. Padilla’s three overtime saves and the CSUB defense’s critical save in the waning moments helped CSUB hold on for the tie.
The ‘Runners finished the regular season with a record of 8-9-2 (4-2-1 WAC), CSUB’s highest win total in the school’s Division I history. Bakersfield will travel to Kansas City, Mo. for the WAC Tournament, Nov. 3-6. CSUB’s first match is scheduled for 4 p.m. (CT) on Nov. 4 and the ‘Runners will take on the winner of the UMKC-UTRGV match on Nov. 3. For more information on the WAC Tournament, visit the Championships page at WACSports.com.