Monday afternoon marked the second meeting of the season between soccer foes Somerset and Westmont, but while this tilt played out in much the same fashion as the first – a double-overtime thriller in Somerset that ended in a scoreless tie – the outcome of the eagerly awaited rematch was quite different.

Both teams showed up with strong team defensive efforts that have been their hallmarks throughout the season, but Westmont’s precise execution on two scoring plays cost the previously undefeated Golden Eagles their first loss of the season by a 3-1 final.

“We’ve been working hard since we played them the first time,” Hilltoppers’ (12-3-1) head coach Mark Drummey said. “They’re an excellent team. We were looking forward to having them come back to our field. The boys were really up today and they did a great job. Somerset’s coach (Eric Johnston) is such an excellent coach in the way he’s got his players prepared – you can tell from their record coming in.”

The game began as scripted, with the squads dueling for possession through an intense first half that saw only eight shots registered between them. As the first 40 minutes wound down, it seemed only a matter of time before the Hilltoppers might break through.

That’s exactly what happened at the 37:58 mark of the second half, when Joe Asel’s throw-in from high on the far sideline was played into the upper left corner of the net by Corbin Layton’s header to give Westmont a 1-0 advantage.

Somerset rallied to force several scoring opportunities in the following minutes, but keeper Kevin Merchant and the Hilltopper defense denied the Golden Eagles’ effort long enough to give Westmont a chance to extend the lead.

The Hilltoppers took advantage of the momentum, earning a free kick in the 49th minute that Jim Andrews launched into a wall of Somerset defenders. Corbett Drummey found the loose ball after the deflection and deposited it into the net to give Westmont the 2-0 lead.

Somerset got onto the board and back into the game on Josiah Redd’s penalty-kick goal in the 67th minute, but Westmont’s defense and ball possession seemed to get stronger as time wound down.

Asel used a perfectly placed free kick to within feet of the net to assist a Layton header once again with 3:40 remaining, setting the final of the emotional Westmont win.

“It’s huge, it’s really huge,” coach Drummey said. “It was really important to us, and you see how excited they are ... we’re really happy we could beat a team the quality of Somerset. One of our varsity players, Anthony Ponce ... his mother came back from serving in Iraq today, so we dedicated the national anthem of this game to her. There was a lot of emotion behind it.”

Though the Golden Eagles’ 15-game undefeated streak comes to an end, their 14-1-1 record and overall play speaks for itself.

“I thought we played them pretty evenly again,” coach Johnston said, “but they executed on three set pieces and made us pay for turning the ball over deep in our end or taking an unnecessary foul. We just didn’t get it done at the scoreboard. My hope is that we can learn from this and be more competitive in the rest of our schedule.”

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