By Kyle Cape-Lindelin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The women's soccer team has found a much-needed offensive spark in sophomore transfer forward Kaila Cameli. Now they look ahead to vital games at Loyola Marymount on Oct. 28 and at Pepperdine on Oct. 30.
Joining the team this summer from Phoenix College, Cameli completed a hat trick in UP's first WCC conference win against St. Mary's and scored the game-winning goal in double overtime at San Francisco.
The soccer team's up-and-down season continues as they celebrated their first WCC win at St. Mary's on Oct. 16 in their best offensive game of the year, beating the Gaels 7-4 and also eked out a win at San Francisco 1-0 on Oct. 23. However, the team is still struggling, narrowly losing 2-1 to San Diego on Oct. 14 and to No. 12 Santa Clara with a final score of 2-1 on Oct. 21.
"It's hard for the team to lose these close games that we know are very winnable," head coach Garrett Smith said. "We know what we can do. This is a learning and growing experience for this young team."
San Diego became the first WCC team since the 2002 season to beat the women's team at Merlo Field, breaking a 16-game winning streak and a 26-0-2 record since 2002. UP went down 1-0 in the 37th minute after Torero forward Stephanie Ochs hit a shot from 18 yards out just over the hands of UP senior goalkeeper Hailee DeYoung.
The Pilots had three opportunities to score before Ochs' goal with two shots barely missing the crossbar and another stopped by a diving save by SD goalkeeper Courtney Parsons.
San Diego pushed their lead further in the 59th minute, going up 2-0 before UP scored a goal of their own only minutes later off the head of sophomore midfielder Micaela Capelle. Capelle headed in a shot that rebounded off the crossbar from fellow sophomore midfielder Michelle Cruz.
"We really practiced extra this week on penetrating on offense and being aggressive on rebounds," Capelle said. "That's how we were able to get that goal and it's something that will be successful for us as the games go on."
UP had five shots in the final 10 minutes to try and tie the game, but San Diego hung on and walked out of Merlo Field the winner.
"This was one of the most impressive performances by our team this season," Smith said. "The way we bounced back and were attacking on offense is a great change considering we haven't had a full squad all season."
The Pilots offense erupted against St. Mary's in a successful away match led by Cameli. Cameli scored three goals and had an assist on the night, completing the first hat trick since sophomore forward Amanda Frisbee accomplished the feat in the first-round playoff matchup against UT-San Antonio last year.
UP's firestorm of goals started with senior forward Danielle Foxhoven scoring off a pass from Capelle in the 17th minute to give her a team-high six goals scored during the season.
St. Mary's scored the tying goal in the 25th minute only to see Capelle give UP the lead two minutes later, scoring a goal off a rebounded header from freshman defender Lorielle McCluskie.
"Everybody stepped up tonight," Capelle said. "Whether it was young players, bench players or our veterans, we really came together and showed what we can do."
The Pilots scored five straight times in the second half to effectively bury the Gaels, with goals coming from sophomore forward Ellen Parker, Cruz and three goals from Cameli. St. Mary's scored three goals in the final five minutes but the game was out of reach and Smith had pulled many of the UP starters.
After securing their first WCC win of the season and awakening their offense, the Pilots were once again caught in a fierce battle with No. 12 Santa Clara, losing 2-1 on nationally televised ESPNU. Santa Clara scored first in the fifth minute off a header giving them a 1-0 lead to start the game.
"Just looking at the stats we've been in practically every game we've played," Smith said. "We as a team need to put the finishing touches on, which means not giving up goals easily and take goals when we have a chance."
The Pilots were down until after halftime when Capelle was able to score in her fourth straight game to even the score 1-1. Santa Clara forward Bridgett Miller was able to sneak the game-winner past DeYoung in the 85th minute.
UP had multiple chances to change the course of the game but was unable to take advantage of two penalty kicks. Foxhoven barely missed a header with less than two minutes remaining.
"We had opportunities and didn't respond, that's on us," Cruz said. "We got to play each game like it's our last and don't look forward to the future until its here."
The Pilots continued their road-warrior mentality with another defensive grindhouse in a 1-0 win at San Francisco. Despite holding the shot advantage over the Dons 13-4, the Pilots were held in a deadlock until 37 seconds into the second overtime. Cameli took a pass from Foxhoven, going one-on-one with USF goalkeeper Heather Haney, before ducking the shot into the right corner of the net for the first game-winner of her career. The Pilots raised their overall record with the win to 7-8-1 with a 2-3 WCC record.
The Pilots have a great chance to improve their conference record and gain ground against beatable LMU, who has struggled in WCC play with a 1-4-1 conference record. Pepperdine will be a serious challenge for UP, however, as they lead with the best record in the WCC, undefeated 13-0-4 overall and 5-0 in WCC play.