Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer team head coach Tim Ward has a simple message for the Waves with three games left on their regular season schedule and a chance to qualify for the NCAA’s Women’s College Cup available: “Let’s get better.”
The coach said Pepperdine has to win all three of their final games to be considered as an at-large team for the postseason tournament’s multiple-team field.
“NCAA teams find a way to get it done down the stretch,” Ward said. “If we do, we will have to [have] great, great credentials to sneak in the tournament.”
Pepperdine’s resume for acceptance into the College Cup includes giving Stanford, one of the top two teams in the country, its lone loss of the season, and tying UCLA and Texas A&M, two squads ranked in the top 25. The Waves have also suffered close losses to stiff competition.
Pepperdine has an 8-6-2 overall record, which includes a 4-2 record in the West Coast Conference. The first of the bunch’s final three games is this Friday at WCC-opponent San Diego.
Pepperdine played like a NCAA tournament squad during their last contest, an Oct. 26 victory over Pacific, another WCC foe, at Pepperdine’s Tari Frahm Rockus Field. The Waves downed the visiting team, 4-0, due to goals from junior Devyn Gilfoy and sophomores Joelle Anderson, Erin Sinai, and Madi Cook.
Gilfoy and Anderson scored in the first half, and Sinai’s and Cook’s kicked balls found the back of the net in the second half. Throughout the game, especially after halftime, the Waves peppered the Pacific defense, anchored by goalkeeper Brenna Crump, with scoring attempt after scoring attempt. In fact, Pepperdine had a 30-4 advantage in shots and 15-4 in shots on goal. Pepperdine’s scoring attempts included three kicked balls that hit the crossbar or post.
Ward said the Waves could have put two or three more points on the board. He was happy with the scoring chances the group got but wished they could have netted a few more.
“I have high expectations, and the girls know that,” he said. “I don’t want to have to apologize for keeping the bar high because I know what they are capable of. If you set the standard high, they will rise up.”
Ward equated the missed goals as creating a beautiful ice cream sundae but dropping it on the floor before having the chance to take a bite.
“We did all of this beautiful preparation and work to build something really amazing, but right in the last moment, but right before we were going to get our dessert, we dropped it,” he said. “But we scored four great goals and are going to try and build on it.
Gilfoy, a forward, scored first for Pepperdine in the contest’s eighth minute. The third-year college player was in the box when she took a pass from redshirt freshman midfielder Olivia Packer. With the ball, Gilfoy spun and beat Crump to the right side of the goal post and scored.
Anderson scored around 21 minutes later. She kicked the ball from yards out into the Pacific net after a corner kick from her teammate, senior forward Hailey Stenburg, was headed by an opposing player.
Sinai’s goal came on a penalty kick with around 81 minutes on the clock, and Cook’s header around two minutes later found the inside of the net after a corner kick from Anderson.
The victory was the Waves 11th-straight over Pacific.
The Waves’ defeat of Pacific came three days after they were beaten, 4-3, by Santa Clara. Pepperdine had a 3-0 lead midway through the second half, but Santa Clara netted four goals in 14 minutes to grab the victory.
Ward had never coached in a game where his team lost like that.
“That’s tough on the ego,” he said. “We played beautifully up there.”
The coach said Pepperdine’s performance against Pacific showed the character of the team.
“Great response after a pretty disappointing result,” he said.
Pepperdine began the season in late August with a 3-0 triumph over UC Riverside. The squad played Texas A&M, ranked 22nd, to a 0-0 tie after that, then lost consecutive matches to Illinois, highly touted Vanderbilt and Cal Poly.
Pepperdine beat second-ranked Stanford, 1-0, and tied 18th-ranked UCLA, 2-2. The team lost to 19th ranked Washington State and beat CSUN. Pepperdine began its WCC schedule with a downing of Portland, then lost to fourth-ranked BYU. The Waves beat Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga before facing Santa Clara last week.
Pepperdine plays at San Francisco five days after facing San Diego. The Waves’ last game of the regular season is at home on Nov. 9 against Saint Mary’s.
Pepperdine qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2017. The team beat Cal State Fullerton in the first round and was defeated by Virginia in the second round.
Pepperdine, a young squad that features only four seniors, has one of the toughest schedules in all of college soccer, said Ward.
“I’m incredibly proud of this group,” Ward said. “There are these frustrating results where we feel like we are the better team, there have been some moments of inexperience that has cost us a few games this year. Its’ sort of the school of hard knocks. We are growing.”