By John Philip Wyllie
For someone who began the WUSA
inaugural season on the San Diego Spirit bench, Erin Montoya has
certainly come a long way in a short time. In only her second
start of the season, Montoya, a former University of Santa Clara
star (1994 -97), walked away with the Spirit's first ever ERA
Max Hustle Award. As a result, $1,000 dollars will be donated
in her name to the Women's Sports Foundation.
Montoya was naturally pleased with the award and deflected the praise to her teammates for what was by far the Spirit's finest performance of the season. "It's just a good feeling to know that you left the field having given it your all," Montoya told a group of reporters afterward. Saturday's impressive 3-1 victory over the Boston Breakers lifted the Spirit out of the league's cellar and moved them into sixth place. The win couldn't have come at a better time.
Reeling from three straight losses, it looked prior to the game that the Spirit were about to drop out of contention. Now, if they can help themselves on their upcoming two-game road trip, they will be back in the hunt by the time they return to USD's Torero Stadium on June 24.
While the game was critical to the team as a whole, it was particularly important to Mon-toya in her bid to become one of the team's starting flank midfielders. She certainly didn't hurt her chances with Saturday's performance.
Using her speed, quickness and hustle to great advantage, Montoya was a force in the midfield. She also had a part in what may turn out to be the most important goal of the season.
After dominating throughout most of the first half, but failing to score, the Spirit allowed a goal just two minutes prior to halftime. Moments later however, the Spirit struck back when Montoya set up Traci Arkenberg with a well placed ball across the 18 yard box.
"The ball was coming from the far post and I was looking to get it back across somehow. I really didn't know who was there," Montoya said. Montoya's well-placed floater reached the head of Arkenberg. She headed the ball in and knotted the score at one goal apiece. It was Arkenberg's first goal of the season as well as the Spirit's most important goal to date. The momentum it created inspired the team. They returned to the field after the break with renewed energy and in the second half took the lead and then put the game on ice with goals from Shannon Boxx and Mercy Akide.
Tickets for the June 24 date with Brandi Chastain's CyberRays and the rest of the Spirit's home schedule are available by calling 1(877) SOCCER.
Montoya's San Diego Spirit teammate, Gina Oceguera, was called up to Mexico's national team this week for their upcoming match against Canada.