RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- It was a perfect storm Saturday, and California Baptist University rode right through it.
All the way to the Pacific West Conference Championship.
The formula was simple-win and they're champs. The setting was perfect-playing their final regular-season game at home, on Senior Day before a robust and enthusiastic crowd, against a team that beat them earlier in the year.
The result was storybook.
Honored at halftime, senior Ruben Sanchez scored his first career goal, senior Osvaldo Bastida scored the game-winning goal and the Lancers defeated Dixie State 3-1 to claim a share of the PacWest title in their first season in the conference.
"This is unreal," said Sanchez, who was making just his second start of the season and first since Sept. 17. "All we've done is work hard so to finally get this done my senior year is unreal. It couldn't have come at a better time. I appreciate all coach has done for us and for giving me a chance today."
The win improves the Lancers to 13-5 overall, 10-2 (30 points) PacWest. Up next are the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) West Regionals Nov. 17 and 19. CBU will host each day.
The Red Storm, who on Oct. 18 were 6-0 in conference play and in first place, conclude their season at 8-8-2, 7-5 (21 points), dropping five of their final six matches. It is the first time Dixie State has allowed three goals this year since its season opener against Cal Poly Pomona.
"We've had milestones along the way but haven't quite been able to get over the hump," said CBU Head Coach Ryan Jorden. "It's been a great year and to be in this situation to win it at home in front of a good crowd on Senior Day is fantastic."
The Lancers honored Sanchez, Bastida and Willie Rupert at halftime when the game was tied 1-1. The Lancers blew the roof off the game in the final 45 minutes.
And now they're PacWest Champions. It is the fourth conference title won by CBU teams in the last seven days.
"Ever since we came in here our goal was to be in this position with this program," said Rupert, who has started all of the Lancers' 72 games the past four seasons. "We've finally done it. We had a chance last year, but we finally got the job done this year. This is great."
Sanchez, who took advantage of a Jorden tradition of starting the seniors on Senior Day, scored just 15 minutes into the game. Marc Hope got down the left side and laced a ball across. It deflected off a Red Storm defender and right to the feet of Sanchez, who was standing at the top of the area.
Sanchez took a touch and beat Red Storm keeper Tyler Walters to the right post.
"Ruben scores goals in training, and we've been messing around with him playing up front," said Jorden. "We wanted to give him a run on Senior Day, and he did what he does all the time in training."
The Red Storm answered in the 26th minute when Jordan Roylance set himself up with a header, beat Joey Pacheco to the ball, touched to the middle, then took another touch and put the ball into an open net to equalize. It was Dixie State's lone first-half shot.
The second half, though, belonged to the Lancers.
Though each team took six shots apiece in the second half, the Lancers buried two of them.
In the 54th minute, Alex Anderson got the ball on the right side. He found Bastida, who was virtually alone in the middle right at the top of the area. Bastida, with his back to the goal, took a touch, turned and hit a blistering ball to the far post for what turned out to be the game-winner.
It was his 26th career goal and 11th of the season, a career-high.
"Ozzie's been doing that all year," said Jorden. "I couldn't be happier for the three seniors. They were all terrific today coming up with big performances on Senior Day. That shows the type of character they have."
While the seniors did the work early, the youngsters did the work late as Hope put the game on ice with an 83rd minute goal, burying a cross from the right side from Michael Salazar.
Seven minutes later, the celebration was on.