After two tough losses, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team came back charging this week. In both games, Coach Bill Swartz would again start five freshmen, but this time these young players stepped up to the more physical nature of the college game under the leadership of captains Robbie Hull PO ’13 and Erik Munzer PO ’13. P-P out-fouled their opponents in both games and hassled opposing players on every play. Their hard work paid off with two key league wins.
Last Saturday, Nate Shekita PO’ 15 and Danny Nasry PO’ 13 combined to lift their team over La Verne in dramatic fashion. With only three minutes left in the game, Nasry broke through La Verne’s back line and selflessly slotted a ball to Shekita, who craftily finished, logging his first goal of the season. In the final minute of the game, Shekita returned the favor with a splitting pass to Nasry through La Verne’s midfield. After twisting La Verne’s defense, Nasry snuck a ball inside the near post past La Verne goalkeeper Richard Duran from outside the penalty area. P-P outshot La Verne 17-6, but also out-fouled them 13-5.
“We played blue collar soccer up to the final minute,” said Shekita, attributing his team’s success to their newfound physical intensity.
On Wednesday, the Sagehens ramped up the intensity again as they faced cross-campus rival CMS. After speeding past two defenders in the second minute of the game, Michael Ceragioli PO ’14 buried the ball in the back of the net to give the Sagehens an early lead. Nasry remarked, “I think that’s the happiest I’ve ever seen Mike.”
For the rest of the period, the Sagehens safeguarded their slim lead against a barrage of CMS attacks. Erik Munzer PZ ’13 saved what surely would have been a goal in the eighth minute by deflecting the ball off his chest. As the first half progressed, the P-P team sunk deeper and deeper into their own half—P-P’s backline was under constant pressure. The Sagehens’ best chance in this period would come from Evan Munoz PZ ’12, who nearly squeezed his own rebound on a corner kick inside the near post. Later, in the 36th minute, the Stags nearly equalized again as Jake Bishop’s 12-yard rocket clanked off the post. Despite Ceragioli’s early goal, the Sagehens were lucky to go into the halftime break still up 1-0.
In the second half, P-P was forced into a shell yet again by the Stags. But this time, the Sagehens occasionally broke out under the guidance of central midfielders Robbie Hull PO ’13 and Arash Mahboubi PO ’15, creating many quality chances on well-organized counter-attacks. Ceragioli nearly scored again early in the half after Nasry beat multiple defenders to squeeze in a cross. Unfortunately, the ball soared over the crossbar. Strong defensive performances from Munzer—playing with what appeared to be a painful ankle sprain—and Geordie Marinner PO ’15 and two amazing saves (among five others) from goalkeeper Rollie Thayer PO ’13 helped P-P earn their second shutout.
Although the Stags continued to pepper Thayer’s goal, the Sagehens remained dangerous on the counterattack. In the 79th minute, defender Mark Raftery PO ’15 won the ball in the Stags’ half before serving a brilliant ball behind the Stag backline. Raftery linked up with forward Lawrence MacDonald PZ ’15, who found the upper left-hand corner of the net, securing the win for the Sagehens. Nasry nearly made it 3-0 after flicking Shekita’s cross just outside the right post.
“Although CMS had the lion’s share of the chances, Pomona was the better team. CMS just couldn’t handle our coal miner-like effort,” Ceragioli said.
The statistics support Ceragioli’s claim—the Stags outshot the Sagehens 22-13, but the Sagehens earned more fouls and received four yellow cards.
“The Stags nearly trampled us, but our constant and furious pecking gave us the win,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s what Cecil would have done.”
With this win, the Sagehens improved their record to 3-3 (2-1 in SCIAC) and handed CMS their first league defeat. The Sagehens will try to build on this momentum as they travel to Caltech this Saturday before returning home to play Hendrix College at 4 p.m. on Sunday.