On October 1st, 2016, the 12th ranked Vanguard Lions faced the 18th ranked Biola Eagles at Al Barbour field for the first time since the Eagles defeated the Lions in the 2015 GSAC tournament championship final. That late and chilly November evening ended 1-0 in favor of the Eagles, who had also managed to pry the conference title away from the Lions earlier that season by a mere point. To say that this game had some serious animosity going into it is a significant understatement, when taking into account the rivalry that has been established between the two universities long before the narrow results of last season. Furthermore, this matchup had even more added significance due to the fact that Vanguard and Biola are the only two nationally ranked universities in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
This headliner of a game kicked off at approximately 7p.m. in front of a near sell-out crowd that hosted a fairly even split between fans of both the Lions and the Eagles. The pace of the game right from the get-go can be best described as a flurry of passing and attacking sequences from both sides, as both teams tested the other for any weaknesses or opening nerves. For the mass majority of the first half, however, neither team could break the deadlock as both defences held firm against attacking lineups that had so far struggled to find the goal scoring form that had come so easily last season. It wasn’t until the last few minutes of the first half that a signature long throw from senior left back Zac Way made its way to a bunch of bodies in the Biola box as Freshman midfielder Miguel Tapia put his head on it for his first collegiate goal. The Vanguard section of the facility roared with delight, as their team gained a crucial lead going into the half time team talk over their bitter Biola rivals. The message from head coach Randy Dodge was “more of the same” and “keep your composure while fighting with your brothers,” as the Lions trotted back out for a half that would in fact promise more of the same.
The second half predictably began with wave after wave of Biola attacks as the Eagles desperately pressed for an equalizer. However, a strong defensive performance from the VU backline seemed to grow stronger, as the resilience needed to keep the Eagles out was found at every time of asking. Although the Lions did scrounge together a few more decent opportunities to increase the narrow lead, a final scoreline of 1-0 mirroring the two VU-Biola games last season would suffice again except this time in favor of the Lions. Once that whistle blew, the Lions knew they had kept their hunt for the conference title alive while also hurting the chances of a successful title defense for the Eagles. After the game, Junior defender Nate Miramontes said that, “Biola was a big game for us. Beating them gives us the belief that we are the best team in the GSAC when we play to our abilities.” The result improved the Lions record to 2-2 in conference play while reducing the Eagles record to 2-2 in conference play. If nothing else works in favor of the Lions throughout the remainder of their campaign, they can at least take comfort in knowing they exercised their demons from last season. However, the 12th ranked lions should take this result as a catalyst in their run for silverware this season.