Women’s soccer salvages 2-2 draw in season opener against Westmont

By Christian Malone, September 5, 2023

Cal Poly Pomona’s women’s soccer team took the pitch at Kellogg Stadium amidst 90-degree heat for its season opener against the Westmont College Warriors Aug. 31, a contest that would ultimately end in a 2-2 tie.

The match turned out to be a frustrating affair for the Broncos as they consistently created chances but could not capitalize on their offensive creativity. Head coach Jay Mason made it clear that while the team was able to pull something positive out of a tough matchup, it ultimately did not set the tone he hoped for heading into the 2023 season.

“They definitely had moments where they turned it on and showed what they’re capable of doing, but I just felt like the tempo we played at was well below what we should be playing at,” Mason said.

CPP’s struggles started early with Westmont forward Amarys Machado finding the back of the net less than seven minutes into the game.

Trailing by one, the Broncos had to keep the pressure on to get a chance to even the score. Their continuous efforts paid off in time before the Warriors could widen their lead. Bronco forward Jaclyn Cuevas leveled the score with an assist from forward Tara Oper with nearly 20 minutes left to play in the first half.

After the equalizing goal, however, the Broncos struggled to best Westmont’s defense again. The team frequently pushed down the field with creative playmaking but could not make the most of their chances, with countless shots going just wide of the posts to the dismay of the opening-day crowd.

The score stayed level at 1-1 as the half came to a close. The Broncos dominated in terms of possession but ultimately could not secure the lead in the first 45 minutes.

While the team was not playing with the amount of energy he wanted, Mason still praised their persistence when playing from behind throughout the first half.

“There’s always games where things don’t quite click, so we want a team that can fight through some of that adversity, especially so early in the season,” Mason said.

Courtesy of CPP Athletics

Both teams aimed to step on the gas to gain the advantage as the second half kicked off. The Westmont offense was particularly ferocious early on as they forced CPP goalkeeper Bella Hara to make three impressive saves back-to-back within the first few minutes of the half. In the end, the defense could not hold forever. Westmont midfielder Sydney Reese broke through and scored 10 minutes into the half to net her team the lead once again.

The match was Hara’s debut game as a Bronco after transferring from Azusa Pacific University over the summer, and despite letting in two goals, she remained composed and proved to be a strong defensive force both at the goal line and when playing outside of the box throughout most of the match. According to Hara, her ability to stay in the game largely came down to experience.

“Disregarding COVID, this is my fourth year of college soccer,” Hara said. “Honestly, with that experience, and since I’ve been at this level for quite some time, it doesn’t faze me anymore. I trust the people in front of me, and I trust my ability and my skills.”

Hara added that if the team can replicate the cohesion they had during their games in the offseason, she’s hopeful they can avoid conceding in future contests.

Following Westmont’s second goal, CPP repeatedly pushed down the pitch but once again could not find the back of the net as Westmont’s defense, particularly defender Makenna Meyers, locked down the pitch and snuffed out the Broncos offense throughout the next half hour.

The situation nearly went from bad to worse for the Broncos in the 75th minute as a defensive error in the penalty box gave Westmont a penalty kick. A hush fell over the crowd as Westmont’s striker prepared for the kick. After a tense few seconds, the home crowd erupted as the penalty taker narrowly missed wide, giving CPP a glimmer of hope.

Emotions were running high as the Broncos tried to close the gap before the match came to a close. Finally, in the 78th minute, Oper launched the ball into the lower left corner of the net from the edge of the penalty box and bested Westmont’s goalkeeper, tying the game up at 2-2.

“I felt really good after that because I was like, ‘This is the moment, we need that goal,’” Oper said, regarding her equalizing goal.

Both teams scrambled to secure a permanent lead in the final minutes of the game. In the end, however, neither squad could score again, and the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Following their opening game, the team immediately started preparing for their five other preseason matchups.

The team traveled to Azusa for its second preseason match against Azusa Pacific University Saturday, Sept. 2, which ended in a 2-0 victory for the Broncos in spite of APU’s relentless offense. With a much more satisfying victory under their belt, the team is now preparing for its next preseason match against Point Loma Nazarene University, which will take place Thursday, Sept. 7 in San Diego.

Feature image courtesy of CPP Athletics

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