The Menlo College men's soccer team needed three overtimes games to reach the championship of the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament. On Saturday, the Oaks got it done in regulation, beating Westmont, 2-1, at Biola to advance to the NAIA national tournament.
Menlo (15-4-1) qualified for its first national tournament in five years, in just its second year in the GSAC, and will play Saturday against an opponent and site to be announced at 10 a.m. Monday.
In the longer view, there were a host of story lines that saw Menlo once again overcome adversity and battle to their program-best 15th win of the season.
The game started in similar fashion to Thursday's semifinal win over Vanguard, as the Oaks got a goal early in the first half to set the tone for the day. Emanuelsson worked off a ball dumped into the box from the right side by Ryan Onizuka.
Westmont, who defeated the Oaks, 3-0, in October, found the equalizer in the 24th minute to set up a wacky end to the first half.
With just over 31 minutes remaining, Emanuelsson was tackled and took exception to it and confronted the defender to the tune of his first career red card.
The ejection forced Menlo to play a man down for the remainder of the game, which seemed like a daunting task until just a few seconds later. Nunez scored his second goal of the tournament and team-best 11th. It came off a free kick delivered by Onizuka.
It was only fitting that Onizuka got the assist, as he set the career assists record in Thursday's semifinal. He has 21 for his career.
From that point, Menlo was forced to change its strategy with the man down. In the first half, the Oaks fired off nine shots, in the second they managed just four, three on frame.
Westmont peppered the Menlo defense with 12 shots in the second half and 21 in the game. Despite the fervent Warrior attack, Menlo continued to fend off shot after shot and free kick after free kick on their way to the championship.
Menlo gave lone senior Kaya Johnson a nice send-off and closed their second season in the GSAC with a victory, beating William Jessup, 25-20, 25-16, 25-19, on Saturday.
Setter Monica Hruby guided an effective offense and junior libero Hannah Hudson solidified the defense for the Oaks, who finished 15-15 overall, 7-9 in the GSAC. They were 7-20 and 5-11 a year ago.
Moea Kekauoha completed her freshman campaign with a 13-kill, 16 dig performance. Sierra Buscher added 11, to go with 14 digs. Behind them were Maggie McDonald and Emily Sunada with 9 and 7 respectively. Maddie Clegg, Bailey Gamez, and Hruby each finished with 3 kills. Hruby also dished out a match-high 37 assists to guide the Oaks, who hit .279 collectively. Hudson led the Menlo backrow with 17 digs while Monica Hruby collected 16 digs. Rounding out the Oaks' defensive efforts was senior Kaya Johnson who closed her career with an 11-dig performance that included serving up a pair of aces.
The Oaks, in their second game of the Cal Maritime Classic on Saturday, beat New Hope Christian College, 88-71, to extend their wining streak to four games following a season-opening loss.
New Hope jumped to a 32-23 lead in the first half. Menlo's Jared Wall hit back-to-back 3s to bring the Oaks within three and took the lead after Ben Graham hit a 3-pointer. The Oaks took a 48-40 edge at halftime and then kept building their advantage.
The Oaks go up against Pacific Union College on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Menlo has a 23-6 all-time record against the Pioneers, but has not won since 2014.
Menlo beat Cal Maritime, 79-46, on Saturday night, as Kelsey McKeon made all three of her 3-point attempts for nine points, to go with 11 rebounds.
Madison Rocha scored 10 of her team-leading 16 points in the first half, while Jessica Rogers scored the first 8 points of her collegiate career. Aliyah Brantley also hit double-digits with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
Alyssa Gable also had 11 rebounds. Celina Pagan recorded four of Menlo's 15 steals. The Oaks (2-2) have 33 steals in their past two games.
Menlo plays at CSU East Bay at Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.