Sagehen Soccer Closes in on First SCIAC Regular Season Title in 29 years

It was a strange sight to behold on the Pomona-Pitzer field Monday afternoon as the visiting Whittier Poets practiced alongside the Sagehens. As P-P ran passing drills on one half of the field, the Poet scrubs lazily took shots on their backup goalkeeper.To the estimated 25 fans in attendance, the sight was surreal. The explanation? Both teams showed up to play, but no referees did.So, after warming up for an hour and a half, the #1 Sagehens and #2 Poets eventually had to reschedule their grudge match. The game will take place Sunday at 2 p.m.Meanwhile, P-P had their first chance to clinch their first regular season SCIAC title in 29 against Redlands on Wednesday, Oct. 28, however a tie left them one point short. With two games remaining, the Sagehens can clinch the title either with a Whittier loss or tie, or with their own win or tie.Saturday, Oct. 24, the Sagehens notched a 3-0 victory over visiting La Verne. With several starters battling illness and injury—freshman phenom Danny Nasry PO ’13 was out with a harsh case of the flu—P-P nevertheless prevailed.The Sagehens drew first blood in the opening half when striker Zack Burke PO ’10 collided with the La Verne keeper as they both went for a 50-50 ball. Burke is a powerhouse who tends to get the best of any collision, and this one was no exception, as La Verne’s goalie left the field and did not return. Reports from medical experts on the P-P training staff indicated that he suffered a broken rib.On the very next play, Burke ripped a vicious shot that tested the backup La Verne keeper, and he was not up to the challenge. The keeper pushed the rebound straight to the feet of Burke’s Australian striking partner James Yong PI ’10, who slammed the ball into the back of the net with authority.“I was free at the top of the box and screaming at him, but Burkie usually goes deaf when he’s in front of the goal,” Yong said afterwards. “Luckily, he took a great shot, and when it came to me I had time to take a breath and make sure not to put it over.”This is the third game Burke and Yong have started together up top, and the two seem to be forming an effective partnership. The two strikers have different, complementary styles. Burke “really has a lot of size and strength,” Yong said. “I’m more of a small and quick player.”It really is a kind of “Beauty and the Beast” dynamic that extends off the field as well.“My charm and accent go well with his brawn and manliness. Sometimes I have to shave just to make sure it’s clear who’s who,” Yong joked, referring to the perpetually scruffy Burke. “But I’m pretty sure that Burke has to shave before every game, just to avoid tripping on his beard.”The second goal came on a brilliant pass from Franco Simbana PI ’12. Simbana led Gator Halpern PO ’12 into the space behind the Leopard defense. Halpern touched the ball around the charging keeper and ran it down just before it went out of bounds. Even though Halpern had no angle on his shot, he put enough spin on it to compensate and tuck the ball away for a goal.“It was a beautiful thing,” Halpern said about his goal. “I gotta give credit to Franco. He slotted me the dopest ball of all time.”The final goal of the match came with about ten minutes left, when Wynn Sullivan PO ’10 played Yong in behind the La Verne defense. The Leopard defenders thought Yong was offside, so they stopped pursuing the play. When no flag came up, the back line and both of the La Verne fans were livid, but Yong had already popped the ball over the keeper on a one-touch volley. As the ball rolled slowly across the goal line, Yong celebrated with a series of kangaroo hops, a tradition in his native land of Australia.

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