Historic Year for Men’s Soccer Despite Early Sagehen Tournament Exit

Zack Burke ’10 had a mouth full of curly fries and a quesadilla, but it didn’t stop him from discussing life after Pomona-Pitzer soccer.“Now that the season’s over, only God can judge me,” Burke said earnestly. The Sagehens’ season ended earlier than expected last week when P-P lost in the first round of the playoffs to eventual SCIAC champions CMS. But that one ill-timed loss shouldn’t take away from everything this year’s team accomplished. It’s safe to judge the Sagehens’ 2009 season as one very successful campaign that was only derailed by a freak accident of a loss to CMS. P-P finished the season with a record of 11-1-3, which is still the best in SCIAC even after playoff results are factored in. The Hens had a +13 goal differential. They almost never played from behind—in the 14 games before the playoffs, the Sagehens trailed for fewer than thirty minutes total. Thirteen different players scored goals, and 10 of those players scored multiple times. The team strung together an 11-game unbeaten streak that lasted through the month of October.Those numbers alone don’t do justice to the 2009 season, though. Maybe the respect of other SCIAC coaches gives a better idea of just how good this team was. If that’s true, then all of the evidence points to more of the same P-P dominance: Eben Perkins PO ’11 has just been crowned SCIAC Player of the Year, and Wynn Sullivan PO ’10, James Yong PI ’10 and Alec Larson PO ’11 have been selected to the All-SCIAC First Team.And although the sun has set on this year’s season, the future is gleaming with prospects. As Harvey Dent put it in The Dark Knight, the night is always darkest before the dawn—and the dawn of 2010 is positively glowing. The Sagehens return their entire defensive unit—the same group that surrendered just .94 goals per game this year (best in SCIAC). In the midfield, Robbie Hull PO ’13 will be a year older and a year better, as will his comrades-in-arms Gator Halpern PO ’12, Zack Mirman PO ’11, Danny Nasry PO ’13, and Evan Munoz PO ’12. Someone will have to take up the mantle of goal-scorer from the outgoing James Yong PI ’13 (returning to Australia), but if a kid from Australia can waltz his way onto the SCIAC First Team then surely a homegrown American can answer the call to greatness. As for this year’s seniors, it’s a little early for them to have concrete post-graduation plans. But what they learned from Coach Swartz in their time at P-P will certainly affect their futures.Midfielder Dan Holleb plans to visit Europe over the summer with a group of soccer-loving friends, including teammate Zack Mirman ’11 and this reporter. The goal is to experience European soccer culture by watching World Cup games with the fans of various countries. After that, Holleb’s future is uncertain, but he thinks the P-P soccer experience will be valuable.“Playing soccer for four years gives you the ability to put a lot of hard work into something larger than yourself,” Holleb said.Apparently, judgment before the Lord is the only certainty for senior defender-turned-striker Burke.“I’m taking a year off and then going to med school,” Burke said. “I have no idea what I’m doing in my year off, though, and I’m fine with that.”Attacking midfielders Andrew Stamm and Harry Hanson also hope to take a gap year—Stamm’s before medical school and Hanson’s before law school. Both players had their senior years cut short by injury.Mike Ricciuti and Wynn Sullivan are both on pins and needles waiting for job offers, and declined the opportunity to comment for this article.Goalkeeper Charlie Balter doesn’t have any job prospects just yet, but he thinks his experience on the P-P soccer team will help in other places, too.“You learn how to fill a role, whether that role is to be the star of the team, be a leader, be a supporting player, or be someone who gives a good example in training,” Balter said. “The most important thing is learning how to read the environment you’re in and be effective at filling the role you’re asked to fill.”With any luck, the Sagehen soccer program as well as its most recent graduates will both land on their feet next year.

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