Bob Fortosis of the Westmont College men's soccer team knows about the highs and lows of coaching.
In his sixth season as coach of the Warriors, Fortosis has run the gamut of emotions.
At the moment, things are on the upswing. The Warriors are 15-5 and ranked No. 7 in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics heading into their District III final against Biola at 1 p.m. Saturday at Santa Barbara.
On the surface, it appears to be just another successful season for a program that has reached the District III finals 6 straight years and won the Golden State Athletic Conference championship 3 times in a row.
But Fortosis knows better.
After losing six starters from a team that was ranked No. 6 in the NAIA and lost to Biola in the district final last season, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Warriors.
But, after a promising training camp, Fortosis started the season with great expectations.
At the time, Fortosis had a feeling that it could have been his best team. Unfortunately for the Warriors, those hopes quickly faded when the team was riddled with serious injuries early in the season.
The Warriors lost four starters to knee injuries, three for the season. Only forward Mike Walker has returned, and Fortosis said: "He is only about 80% of what he was before."
Westmont also started the season without forward Peter Bourland, who broke his ankle during a soccer tour of South America last summer, and lost midfielder Greg Smith for about 3 weeks early in the season because of a severe thigh bruise.
"There was a time, before all these guys went down that I was quietly ecstatic," Fortosis said. "I was feeling this could be our best team ever and then, after this, I felt like this could be the longest year ever."
With only one senior in its starting lineup, it could have been rough.
But despite the problems, the Warriors have breezed through the conference season and defeated Fresno Pacific in the District III semifinals last week, 1-0.
The Westmont defense has been outstanding. The Warriors did not allow a goal in GSAC play, outscoring their opponents, 21-0, and allowed only 1 goal in district play. Westmont has 13 shutouts this season.
Also, it is allowing only 6.2 shots a game. Freshman goalie Dave Buehring has a goals-against average of 0.70.
Fortosis said that defense, which this season has been led by defenders Patrick Persson, Alex Stephens and Justin Wall, has always been a key element of his teams' success.
"We place a real emphasis on defense here," he said. "We have some mature players. I don't think you can single out the goaltender or any other players. I think we've made a team commitment to be successful."
The Warriors have been led on offense by forwards Rob Ring with 10 goals and 27 points, Bourland with 9 goals and 20 points, and midfielder James Thompson--the team's only senior--who has a team-leading 8 assists.
But character, more than offensive or defensive ability, has played the most important role in the team's success, Fortosis said.
"I guess I've learned this year that adversity can work two ways," he said. "It can make a team or it can break a team. . . . For us, adversity has worked real positively. As each player would go down, there was that initial feeling that we can't win. But as time went on, each of the other players began to take over.
"It seemed like just at the right time, when we really needed a lift, one of the injured players would come back. That has been a part of the psychological growth of this team--watching how we reacted when the injured players returned."
Considering that Biola upset Westmont in the district final last year, 1-0, the Warriors certainly do not need much more incentive for Saturday's rematch.
Azusa Pacific's hopes of reaching the NAIA Division II football playoffs for the first time appeared to have ended when the Cougars lost to Menlo Saturday, 27-24.
Those hopes might have been revived, though, by the announcement Monday that Menlo has had to forfeit all of its games this season because it did not meet the filing deadline for reporting its eligible football players to the NAIA.
That drops Menlo's record from 7-2 to 0-9 and gives Azusa Pacific a 6-1 record heading into its season finale against the University of San Diego Saturday.
Before losing on the field to Menlo, Azusa Pacific was ranked No. 19 in Division II. The Cougars figured to drop but Coach Jim Milhon said there is no telling what effect the forfeit will have on the rankings.
Occidental, which lost to Menlo, 17-6, 2 weeks ago, also benefits by the forfeit. Occidental's record improves to 7-1.
College Division Notes