The Saddleback women's soccer team defeated Santa Ana College, 3-2, on Tuesday at the OC Great Park. Maliyah Medley recorded her first hat trick of the year as the Gauchos kept pace with the top teams in the Orange Empire Conference.
Saddleback has had an interesting start to OEC play in that they've played well against the top three programs in the conference but have struggled at times against the bottom half, including a 4-2 loss against Santa Ana earlier in the year. This time around the Gauchos turned the tables, defeating the Dons and keeping within an arm's length of the top three teams in the conference.
Saddleback opened the scoring in the 35th minute when Medley took a pass from Kayla Blackmore and beat the Santa Ana keeper for a 1-0 lead. Thirteen minutes later she took a clearing pass and streaked past the defenders for an easy goal and a 2-0 lead.
Santa Ana closed to within 2-1 in the 59th minute when Leyna Wood scored her conference-leading 17th goal of the season. Medley quickly answered, scoring again in the 65th minute for a 3-1 advantage.
For Medley, it was her third goal of the game and the first hat trick for a Gaucho since Emilee Monnig had four goals against Norco College during the 2015 season.
Santa Ana would cut the lead to 3-2 in the 88th minute to make things interesting down the stretch, but couldn't get the equalizer past Saddleback keeper Lehar Chawla.
Chawla had a solid afternoon in goal for the Gauchos, finishing with eight saves.
Saddleback is now 7-4-4 overall and 4-2-3 in Orange Empire Conference play. The Gauchos are sitting in fourth place in OEC play, two points behind third place Fullerton College, four points behind second place Santiago Canyon College and six points behind first place Cypress College.
Saddleback will play again on Friday when they travel to Golden West College (6-7-2, 3-5-1). The Gauchos and Rustlers are scheduled to start at 3:00 PM in Huntington Beach.