Nov. 12, 2010
Post-game interviews on Lions' All-Access.
LOS ANGELES - The number one offense in the West Coast Conference proved to be too much for the league's top defense as second-half goals by sophomore David Ponce and junior Phil Da Silva and two assists by senior Rafael Baca lifted LMU to a 2-0 win over visiting Saint Mary's on Friday afternoon at Sullivan Field. The win moves the Lions (12-5-2, 8-2-1 WCC) into sole possession of first place in the WCC standings with one game remaining and completes LMU's first-ever season sweep of the Gaels (10-7-1, 6-5-0 WCC).
Both team entered the match with everything to play for. Saint Mary's needed a win to keep its title hopes alive, starting the day four points back of the Lions and Santa Clara, who plays later Friday night against Portland. As it played out, the Lions now hold first place in the standings on 25 points, with Santa Clara second on 22.
LMU, the top-scoring team in the WCC at 1.72 goals per game, immediately took it to the Gaels, who were the top defensive team with a 0.86 goals-against-average. A mere 17 seconds into the game, Baca was charging down on the SMC goal, forcing Doug Herrick into his first of 10 saves. LMU would ultimately own a 15-7 shot advantage for the contest but it took two second-half goals to prove the difference.
Ponce's sixth goal of the year, and fourth game-winner, would give the Lions all they would need in the 56th minute as he once again lost his marker for a header. Junior Tyler Krumpe played Baca into the right corner and Baca brought it back to his right foot, delivering a deep ball to the far post. Ponce got a step on his man and lunged, heading home from four yards out to put the Lions on top.
The game began to get chippy after that, with the referee showing each team three yellow cards as both sides battled for the next goal. Saint Mary's would come close to equalizing in the 77th minute when Jordan Grider got free for a header, only to flash it wide.
That would prove crucial as LMU gave itself a two-goal cushion four minutes later. Baca was again involved, releasing Da Silva with a through-ball down the left. Da Silva shook off his defender and cut inside at the end line before hammering a close-range shot from the tightest of angles for his sixth goal of the season.
The two-goal advantage would be enough for McCormack and the Lion defense, which posted its fifth shutout of the season. McCormack made two saves to move into a tie for fourth on the LMU single-season shutouts list with his fifth clean sheet of the year. McCormack also registered his 12th goalkeeper win of the season, breaking the previous school record of 11 held by Shaun Kalnasy (2003) and Adam Sthay (2002).
The Lions built early pressure on the Gael defense and nearly took the lead in the ninth minute when Ponce got loose in the box for a wide-open header. If Ponce could have put it either side of Herrick, he would have scored but his downward header bounced straight up at the keeper, who tipped it over the bar for a corner. Seven minutes later, Baca lost his man down the left and cut it back inside to Da Silva, who stung a shot that Herrick bobbled but kept in front of him and collected.
Saint Mary's had its best chance of the opening half in the 26th minute when it earned a free kick right on the edge of the Lion penalty area. Dylan Leslie's curled shot went around the wall and left redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack McCormack flat-footed but the Lions breathed a sigh of relief to see it go wide.
Almost immediately, the Lions went back on the offensive with a long ball over the top to junior Artur Jozkowicz. His pace got him on the other side of the Gael defense but Herrick came to the rescue, going low to his right to turn it away.
For LMU's 8-3 shot advantage in the first half, the hosts had nothing to show for it but that would turn soon after the break. Herrick was again quick to go to ground three minutes into the second half when he took aim from long range, only for Herrick to dive low to his left and push it for a corner. On the resulting restart, Herrick came off his line but was beaten to it by Ponce, who again rose above the defense to get an open header. Herrick would get a touch on it, though, for another LMU corner. Ponce would finally break through three minutes later and the Lions were on their way to their third consecutive victory.
LMU's 12 wins this year tie for the second-most in program history and are the most since 2003. Additionally, the Lions' eight WCC wins tie the 2004 team for the most by an LMU team. Baca's two assists give him eight for the season and 19 for his career, tying for second on both of those the LMU charts, while his 57 career points are third.
LMU will close out its regular season on Sunday at noon against San Francisco. The Lions will honor Baca and fellow senior Vincent Ocampo in a pregame ceremony as they play their final home game.
- GO LIONS -