COSTA MESA — While the Vanguard University women's soccer team continues to add to the trophy case, Lions Coach Randy Dodge said it's the pillow case that should be foremost on his players' minds.
With a landmark season swinging into its stretch run, including a 2-1 victory over visiting Biola in the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title game Friday to propel the No. 4-ranked Lions into the 32-team NAIA Tournament, Dodge hopes his players continue to consistently justify their peace of mind before nodding off each night.
"What I tell the kids is, 'Have no regrets,'" said Dodge, whose team posted its 12th straight victory to claim the program's second GSAC Tournament crown. "Every game from here on out, if you lose, you go home. So don't have any regrets about not performing. Don't stay up late or have any all-night study sessions thinking you are going to be OK for the game."
The Lions (16-2) have been better than OK since sustaining their last loss, a 2-1 overtime setback to Cal State San Marcos on Sept. 22. Vanguard proceeded to win 10 regular-season conference games, blank The Master's in the tournament semifinals, then dominate Biola (12-7-1), which is the only team to score on the Lions during the winning streak.
In its 12-match roll, Vanguard has outscored teams, 39-2, upping its season scoring advantage to 57-7.
"I've always said Biola [the tournament's No. 3 seed] is the second-best team in our conference behind us," Dodge said. "[The Eagles] are talented and they are hard. And we beat them twice, so that's a big deal."
Biola, which fell to Vanguard, 2-1, in their regular-season meeting Oct. 13, was the only GSAC squad to score against the Lions.
But the 2-1 margin Friday was somewhat deceiving, as Vanguard scored in the ninth minute, built a 2-0 cushion and finished with a 14-4 advantage in shots.
"We flat-out dominated," said Dodge, who had to sweat out the final 17-plus minutes after Biola cut into the lead in the 73rd minute. "Once [the Eagles scored], I don't care who you are, it makes it dangerous."
Vanguard junior forward Jordan Davidson, the likely GSAC Player of the Year, showed why she is the conference's most dangerous scoring threat, posting her conference-best 16th goal of the season to open the scoring.
Davidson, a transfer from Paradise Valley Community College in Arizona, took a through ball delivered by senior Lindsey Holman-Kelley and drove it past the goalkeeper to extend her personal scoring streak to seven games.
Junior forward Kayla Arenas scored her second goal of the postseason to double the lead. She lined a shot from the center of the frame that deflected high off a defender and arched over a charging goalie for the unassisted tally. It was her 11th goal of the season, second on the team, despite having started only six games.
Biola senior Stephanie Cubias ran onto a rebound just outside the left post and rocketed the ball into the upper right corner of the net to put the visitors on the board.
Just more than five minutes later, Vanguard sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Terry made a point-blank save to deny Cubias what would have been the tying goal. Terry finished with three saves.
"[Terry] came up with a big-time save right after they made it 2-1," Dodge said. "She has done that all year for us."
This year, this team, is much different than 2009, when the Lions won the GSAC Tournament to earn the program's first trip to the NAIA Tournament, Dodge said.
"We weren't conference champions in 2009," Dodge said. "We were the No. 2 seed in the tournament and, due to some upsets, we got to host the final against Point Loma Nazarene. We won on PKs, which was very dramatic.
"We're a much better team this year. Overall, we have everything. We've given up two goals the last 13 games, which says a lot about our mind-set as a team. We played without three starters today [Lauren Evans recovering from an appendectomy, Jordan Cleary, who sat out due to what Dodge called a paperwork error, and Jackie Freiberger, an Estancia High product who started, but quickly exited to aid her recovery from a recent injury], so we only played 15 of 16 girls. But we go 19 deep."
The Lions, who were defeated by Point Loma Nazarene, 6-1, in the round of 16 at the NAIA Tournament in 2009, will play host to a first-round contest on Nov. 17. Pairings will be announced Monday. A first-round victory would send the Lions to Orange Beach, Ala. where 16 teams would battle for a national championship from Nov. 26 through Dec. 1.
Something to dream about to be sure.