SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — For the first time since 2002, coach Matt Yelton and his Lee women's soccer team have dropped two straight matches.
Westmont College jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then turned back a gritty second-half comeback by the Lady Flames to secure the 3-2 victory.
"Lots of credit to Westmont today," said Yelton. "They were a hungry team that showed a great deal of desire and commitment. We were suffering a little bit with tired legs from Thursday and they took full advantage with the work rate they brought to the game. They're a first-class program and I thought their players did a great job of representing the legacy of the Westmont Soccer program."
Westmont, always an NAIA power, scored its first goal in the 17th minute on Tiffany Dimaculangan's unassisted shot into the back of the net. The margin grew to 2-0 near the end of the first half (43:11) when Kathryn Hornibrook knocked in an unassisted goal from 12 yards out.
"I think the natural tendency for a lot of people is to hit the panic button after an 0-2 start, especially for a program with our past success," admitted Yelton. "However, I knew going into the year we would be light on experience and we would need to challenge this squad early to get the experience that we were missing."
Four minutes deep into the second half (49:03), the deficit grew to 3-0 when Christine Adams collected an assist from Hornibrook and tallied from 10 yards out. The Lady Flames caught fire in the 58th minute and cut the margin to 3-1 when Debbie Rogers tallied on a free kick that bounced into the net and with the final minute ticking away (89:05), Chloe Rader got her second goal of the season on a free kick from 30 yards out.
The Lady Flames had 10 shots and placed four on goal. Westmont attempted 12 shots and five were on target. Lee freshman keeper Haley Gribler had two saves as did Lindsey Smith, the goalkeeper for Westmont.
"I think if we look at these games and even our preseason games, the common theme is that we are making mental mistakes that lead to success for our opponents," Yelton added. "But we will cut those out as the year goes on and we will be a tougher team mentally by the end of the year.
"My job is to make sure we learn from our mistakes and not let the players get too beat up by these early season results. I think if you look at our opening schedule there are no easy games, and I've just got to make sure the focus remains on improvement and that we don't let our confidence drop after two close losses."
The Lady Flames will return to Cleveland and prepare for another big challenge on Friday evening at 6 p.m. Emory University, a NCAA Division III power, will visit the Lee Soccer Field for the annual Kickin' It for Kids with Cancer contest. Members of the Lee soccer team will be selling T-shirts the entire week and all the proceeds will go the Austin Hatcher Foundation.