In Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer’s game against Occidental this Wednesday, Coach Bill Swartz placed his faith in the team’s talented group of first-years, starting six—more than any game this season. From the very beginning, the young players proved their worth against the Occidental Tigers. Forward Nate Shekita PO ’15 separated himself as the leading Sagehen goal scorer with his third goal of the season. In the fourth minute, fellow forward Lawrence McDonald PZ ’15 intercepted a pass in the Tigers’ defensive third and quickly slotted it to Shekita. After his first shot was blocked, Shekita scrambled to get his own rebound before smoothly dinking his shot off the far post. Shekita’s lone goal put Pomona-Pitzer over the top for a 1-0 win, which leaves the team at 5-4 in the season and 4-1 in SCIAC.
The Pomona-Pitzer offense looked extremely dangerous in the first half. Both Sagehen captains, Robbie Hull PO ’13 and Erik Munzer PZ ’13, nearly found the back of the net multiple times in the game. Before Shekita’s early goal, Munzer almost put the Sagehens ahead even earlier as his powerful header glanced off the post. In the 15th minute, Munzer ripped a 30-yard rocket of a shot that Occidental goalkeeper Andrew Larkin barely blocked. Occidental created one threat in the first half with a counterattack by Ben Murray, whose shot sailed over the crossbar. Although Occidental battled back to see more of the ball towards the end of the first half, they failed to seriously challenge Sagehen goalkeeper Rollie Thayer PO ’13.
Hull opened the second half with a breakaway in the 52nd minute that nearly gave the Sagehens’ a 2-0 lead, but Occidental goalkeeper Andrew Larkin kept his team in the game with a big save. In the 55th minute, a skillful give-and-go combination at the top of the Tigers’ box by Hull and Arash Mahboubi PO ’15 nearly gave Shekita his fourth goal of the season, but his shot veered wide left. Mahboubi also contributed a near-assist in the 67th minute as Harris Levin PO ’14 flicked his pass towards the goal, only to see it ricochet off the post. Although Pomona-Pitzer dominated possession for most of the game, Occidental looked dangerous in the second half and almost capitalized on some defensive mistakes, but the Sagehens still proved victorious late in the game. Beautiful build-up play incorporating the whole team allowed Michael Ceragioli PO ’14 to combine with Shekita inside the Tiger penalty area to set up a long-range effort that Larkin barely brushed away. In the end, all Pomona-Pitzer had to show for their work was Shekita’s early goal.
When asked how they managed to combine for this goal, McDonald said “I think the Occidental back line made a mistake because we came out real fired up. Nate and I got really pumped up before the game and promised each other that we would try our very best. It paid off.”
After the game, Coach Swartz seemed to disagree, as he challenged his team to pick up the intensity and focus. Swartz argued that Pomona-Pitzer almost let the game slip away because of silly mistakes and a lack of effort.
Last Saturday, the Sagehens battled a very defensive Caltech team and emerged victorious, 4-1. The Beavers played five across the back and depended on two extremely large forwards for their offensive threat. Although the Sagehens dominated the Beavers in the first half, Caltech managed to keep the game close—Avery Raimondo PO ’15 scored a 37th minute goal, separating the Sagehens from their opponent. After halftime, the Beavers tied the game 1-1 with junior Mitchel Arene’s header. Arene, who is roughly the size of New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, bodied off Pomona-Pitzer’s biggest defenders to head in a corner kick. This seemed to motivate the Sagehens to overcome their opponent, as Lawrence McDonald PZ ’15, Harris Levin PO ’14, and Nate Shekita PO ’15 all scored in the remaining 40 minutes. If it weren’t for Caltech’s rugged determination, the scoreline could have been greater, as the Sagehens outshot their opponent 21-3.
Coach Swartz used Sunday’s non-conference game against Hendrix College to rest his starters and give some of the other players a chance to gain experience. Under the guidance of Levin, Gator Halpern PO ’12, Owen Hawkins PO ’12, and Nate Anderson PO ’12, the non-starters battled Hendrix well. Unfortunately, P-P defensive mistakes allowed Hendrix to net four goals. The final score read 4-0.
The Sagehens will look to build on their SCIAC success as they travel to Cal Lutheran this Saturday. They return home for another Wednesday afternoon game at 4 p.m. against Whittier.