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College women's soccer: Two keys for TMC

Seniors key success of the No. 4 Mustangs with postseason near

Posted: October 27, 2010 10:22 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Senior forward Emily Bruton is one of the Golden State Athletic Conference's top offensive players.

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If you look at the offensive statistics for Golden State Athletic Conference women’s soccer, you’ll see The Master’s College forward Emily Bruton near the top of most categories.

If you look at goalkeeping statistics, you’ll see TMC goalie Amanda DuRocher Diamond near the top of every category.

If you look at the NAIA coaches’ poll, you’ll see The Master’s College at No. 4 in the nation.

That’s thanks in large part to both players.

Their reliability at each end of the field have the Mustangs in position to make a run at the GSAC title and reach the NAIA national tournament.

“Freedom to not be worried about performance is so crucial,” said TMC head coach Curtis Lewis. “It allows them to succeed without having that pressure.”

Bruton leads the conference with 16 goals and 34 total points. Two points are awarded for goals and one for assists, and Bruton also has two assists.

DuRocher Diamond, meanwhile, leads the conference in goals against average (0.39 per game) and shutouts (six).

Both of the seniors admit having the other on the field allows them to play more freely.

“We’ve only been shut out once this year,” DuRocher Diamond said. “I have complete faith and confidence in Emily and our midfield and our forwards. It allows everyone else to play better.”

Indeed, The Master’s College is replete with talented and experienced players this season, which have helped the team to a 15-1-1 overall record and an 8-1 mark in the GSAC.

The Mustangs can win with a victory over Biola in Saturday’s regular-season finale.

Then comes the GSAC Tournament, and after it, a likely berth in the NAIA tournament, which the Mustangs have missed the last two years. They’ve participated in the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament, which Lewis likens to the NIT compared to the NCAA Tournament in basketball.

The Master’s College was the NCCAA runner-up in 2008 and champion in 2009. But this year’s team wants more, especially seniors like Bruton and DuRocher Diamond.

“I knew what it was like to be awful,” said Bruton, who was a freshman on the 2007 team that finished 2-12-2. “It means that much more to us.”

DuRocher Diamond only joined the soccer team in 2009 after her basketball eligibility had run out.

But she feels the same way.

“All year we’ve been saying ‘three seasons,’” she said. “Preseason, conference play and postseason. I think just having that sense of urgency that we’re not going to play again after this is helpful.”

Neither player has serious plans to continue playing soccer after their college careers end. Bruton said she’s trying to get into graduate school for physical therapy, while DuRocher Diamond expressed her interest in playing basketball in Europe.

Even if they don’t continue playing soccer in the future, it’s OK. They’re a perfect fit for the Mustangs right now.

Lewis’ strategy emphasizes heavy pressure on the opposing team, no matter where the ball is and no matter who has possession. He said that NAIA players generally don’t operate well without room to work.

Bruton is just fine with that approach.

“I’m kind of a scrappy player,” she said. “Everybody knows I’m not the most skilled person. With the formation we play, we’re just supposed to pressure really hard. A lot of our goals have come off forward and midfield pressure where we’ve transitioned really quickly.”

Her latest goal is a perfect example.

Early in the second half of Tuesday’s match, TMC forward Kristyn Richards sent a long ball down the left flank that was misplayed by a Westmont defender. Part of the reason for the misplay appeared to be Bruton, who was charging right at her.

Bruton swooped in, took a couple of touches and buried a left-footed shot in the net.

It proved to be the game-winning goal. Westmont tried to rally, but the Warriors couldn’t get more than one shot past DuRocher Diamond.

She only made two official saves, but DuRocher Diamond was disruptive in the 18-yard box, picking off crosses and getting hands to balls on a consistent basis.

It’s the same aggressive style of play the Mustangs deploy all over the field.

“It allows our team to play higher up, which allows our offense to get going,” Diamond DuRocher said. “Being able to read those 50-50 balls, I think a lot of that comes from basketball, playing a full-court press, just having the ability to read where the pass is coming from and getting a hand on it.”

The Mustangs would like to get their hands on the NAIA national championship trophy.

They’re currently No. 5 in the NAIA Modified RPI Rankings, which determine the at-large qualifiers for the national tournament. Lewis said that even if The Master’s College doesn’t win the GSAC Tournament, it will likely be selected for the 32-team field.

What a treat that would be for the seniors, including Bruton and DuRocher Diamond.

They’re certainly a big reason the Mustangs are in this position.

“I feel blessed to be playing with this group of girls,” Bruton said. “It’s rare to have a team with 24 other girls and you like every single one of them.”

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