Men’s Soccer: A Season on the Brink

If one word could describe the 2010 Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer season, that word would be “up-and-down.”

Leaving aside for a second the issue of creative punctuation and whether or not “up-and-down” actually counts as one word, let’s focus on the facts. The defending SCIAC champions started off their 2010 campaign with one win in their first nine games. Nevertheless, they played a nearly-perfect second half of the season, compiled a 7-7 conference record, and snuck into SCIAC playoffs as the #4 seed.

Last Thursday, P-P traveled east to take on the #1 Redlands Bulldogs (or, as Sagehen fan Theodore Bingham PO ’11 affectionately dubbed them, the “neutered pups”) in a do-or-die playoff match. Just like the I-10, the road to a SCIAC championship and NCAA playoff berth ran straight through Redlands. Flying high after wins against CMS and La Verne, the Sagehens were optimistic even as they drove into hostile territory followed by legions of devout supporters (including several P-P soccer alumni) from Sagehen Nation.

But despite P-P’s best efforts, after 90 minutes it was the Neutered Pups who came out on top by a final score of 1-0. The effete Jamie Griffin recorded the only goal of the match for the Redlands, pounding home a low cross after the NPs mercilessly exploited disorganization in the Sagehen back line.

As you might expect with a 1-0 scoreline, the game was very close. P-P had a goal called back for offsides in the first 15 minutes. Then, in the second half, Emmett Choy PI ’14 served up a long cross that flew over the goalkeeper’s head and off the inside of the far post, but Redlands was able to clear the rebound. With just over three minutes to go, Harris Levin PO ’14 had a chance to equalize but pulled the ball just a tad wide of the upright.

The last match of the 2010 season was a microcosm of the season itself in that it was fraught with difficulties and hard-fought to the very end. P-P Coach Bill Swartz had to call upon a mix of experience and youth to provide the most potent lineup, and with a couple different bounces here or there, the result could have been very different. Such is the nature of an up-and-down season.

Looking to the future, many of the players on the field at Redlands that night will be featured prominently in the Sagehens’ plans for next season. Levin and Choy, two freshmen standouts who play like John Mayer—bigger than their bodies give them credit for—will be back with a vengeance. Leading scorer Danny Nasry PO ’13, who created many of P-P’s best opportunities throughout the season, will be working his usual magic on the ball. Gator Halpern PO ’12 and Owen Hawkins PO ’12, both of whom came into form as the season progressed, will push each other for playing time up top.

Indeed, it may be at defense that the Class of 2011 will be most missed. The quartet of Sean Wales, Alec Larson, Eben Perkins, and Zack Mirman amassed an astonishing number of minutes played and were known throughout SCIAC for their stalwart defense. Erik Munzer PI ’13 and Ryan Miller PO ’14 also played in the back when required, but both may be called to fill different roles next year.

It’s impossible to tell what another year and another recruiting class will bring. However, one thing is certain: P-P soccer will miss the leadership of this year’s senior class.

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