Men’s Soccer Falls to Whittier in SCIAC Semis

In the SCIAC tournament semifinals, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team lost a heartbreaker to Whittier College by a final score of 4-1. Whittier got on the board first in the first half off a free kick that bounced around in the goal mouth before a Poet found a way to punch it into the goal. The Sagehens looked poised to make a second-half comeback until a Whittier midfielder scored a wonder goal off the second half kickoff. They quickly added two more, and a P-P comeback came up just short by the final whistle. The Sagehens will now hope their stellar conference record will be enough to win an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

The Sagehens ended their regular season with a 4-0 win over University of La Verne. The victory, their 11th straight, means that they will end the regular season with a 14-4-1 overall record. 

Before the game, the Sagehens honored seniors Eddie Fernandez PZ ‘13, Robbie Hull PO ‘13, Erik Munzer PZ ‘13 and Danny Nasry PO ‘13. The foursome won a SCIAC championship as first-years and were a big part of the team’s success this year.

Captains Hull and Munzer played key roles in the middle of the field. Munzer anchored a defense that has allowed only four goals in its last 11 games, and Hull’s piano-maker game gives the Sagehens leadership and stability in the midfield. Nasry, who has been a devil on the wing in just 666 minutes of action due to injuries, is the Sagehens’ third-leading scorer with three goals and two assists.

“Some captains are very vocal on the field, whereas I tend to try and lead by example,” said Hull. “It’s easy on our team, however, because everyone on the field is a leader. But sometimes, during down moments, I hope my teammates can look to me to fire them up and get the team back on track.

“I enjoy being a captain on such a good team, though,” Hull added. “It makes my job easier.”

This is the second championship for the seniors, but Nasry noted that the two seasons had very little in common. “There’s definitely a different feel to the two teams,” said Nasry. “My freshman year we were good, but I think we felt like the championship just sort of happened to us. We played some great soccer, don’t get me wrong, but we eked out a lot of close victories. This year I think there’s no question as to how much we deserve the championship. We dominated over the last stretch of the season and had the mentality that we were the better team in every game.”

Since they had already clinched the SCIAC regular-season title with a win over Caltech, the Sagehens had only their winning streak at stake against La Verne.  Still, they put together a strong performance that highlighted their depth. Several starters sat in order to be at full health for Thursday’s playoff game, but the Sagehens still controlled the flow of the game from the start.

Just four minutes into the game, Fernandez, who was making his first start of the season at right back, played a nice ball down the sideline to a cutting Michael Ceragioli PO ’14, who beat a La Verne defender in the corner and sent in a cross that Nate Shekita PO ’15 was able to put away. The goal was Shekita’s team-leading sixth of the year.

The Sagehens doubled their lead 11 minutes later when Avery Raimondo PO ’15 delivered a low cross from the left side that made its way through a group of players and was finished by Ceragioli on the far post. The early lead allowed the Sagehens to slow the game down and frustrate La Verne’s attack, which did not seriously threaten until the game was well out of reach.

With five minutes remaining in the first half, P-P struck again when Harris Levin PO ’14 sent in a lofty cross to an unmarked Raimondo, who had an easy finish at the far post to give the Sagehens a 3-0 lead. The two connected again for the final goal of the contest when Raimondo stole the ball deep in Leopard territory, drew the goalie out and slid across a nice pass to Levin, who was wide open inside the top of the box. Levin’s goal was his third of the season, which tied him for third on the team.

The win was the Sagehens’ 11th in a row, continuing a streak that stretches back to Sept. 22. Over that time, they collected eight shutouts and outscored opponents 25-4.

“It’s been a great stretch of games for us,” said Munzer. “We’ve had different players step up in key positions to help keep the streak going. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my senior season.”

The win and their continued dominant play also led to P-P’s arrival in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Division III rankings. The men’s soccer team is now ranked 24th in the country and third in the NSCAA West Region, which puts them in contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament after losing in the SCIAC semifinals to Whitter.

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