RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- To call Wednesday's game a must-win may be a bit much.
After all, it's only four games into the conference slate and there's still plenty of season left.
But the reality for California Baptist University is that a loss today would have been devastating. Instead, the NAIA's No. 11-ranked Lancers put together a quality performance against a quality team, got two goals from All-American Fabiola Zanella da Silva and avoided their first three-game losing streak since 2005 with a thorough 2-0 blanking of sixth-ranked Vanguard.
"We don't talk in terms of must-win games, but rather we talk about having a good performance," said CBU Head Coach Kristen St. Clair. "We needed a good performance and we got one today. It was an uncharacteristic week for us last week, but the girls dug deep and showed a lot of heart."
The win puts the Lancers back in the win column as they improve to 8-3 overall, 2-2 GSAC (6 points). It also avenges a pair of tough losses to the Lions last year. Vanguard falls to 7-2-3, 1-1-2 (5 points).
Having lost two in a row for just the second time under St. Clair, the Lancers turned to their trusty All-American to lift them today. da Silva scored a goal in each half getting assists from each of the Nicassio sisters.
"Fabiola is a no doubt a very dynamic player," said St. Clair. "The sharp performances around her opened her up more and gave her more room to work. This was definitely a team win, but her goals were quality. She had good composure on both of them."
Her first strike was a work of art. In the 25th minute, Kyrie Nicassio lifted a short cross from the right side right to da Silva, who was waiting in the middle of the area. da Silva, whose back was to the goal, settled the ball with her chest then did a half turn and volleyed it past a helpless Chelsea Lesniak and into the net to give the Lancers a 1-0 lead.
Then, in the second half, da Silva struck again with a big insurance tally in the 56th minute. Kylee Nicassio had the ball on the left side of the field a handful of yards inside the midfield stripe. She sent a long diagonal ball across the field to an onrushing da Silva, who got behind the defense and beat Lesniak for her team-leading eighth goal of the year.
"We were good on both ends of the field today," said St. Clair. "The season is a marathon, not a sprint, so it's important for us to bring our best every time out. We worked hard in training and their performance reflected that today. To be able to have it against a good team like Vanguard, is a good sign."
The Lancers were out-shot, 15-7, including a 12-2 margin in the second half, but the majority of the Lions shots were from long range sailing well wide or well high of the frame. Nicoline Jorgensen did make two saves and Karri Currier's header was cleared off the line by Bernadette Witz in the 64th minute, and she also hit the post in the 81st minute. Other than that, the Lions' chances were limited by a stingy Lancer defense.
"The back four was really good as were our defensive midfielders," said St. Clair. "We kept our shape and didn't let them run in behind. Their recognition was much better, and that allowed us to have a much better performance. We worked hard in training yesterday, and it's nice to see that pay off. We can still get better, though."