The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team remains near the bottom of the SCIAC standings after a week of mixed results. A 1-0 win last Saturday, Sept. 28 against fellow conference struggler Occidental College was followed with a defeat Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the hands of Chapman University. The split leaves P-P third from the bottom in the SCIAC standings, with an in-conference record of 2-5 and a 3-8 record overall. Although performances in both home games were encouraging, the failure to build those victories into continuous positive momentum could remain a challenge as the team attempts to return to its winning ways of last season.
The Sagehens were the better team throughout their encounter with Occidental, and set the tone for the day early on. In the 12th minute, midfielder Nathan Shekita PO ’15, a standout performer for the team all season long, latched onto a long ball hoisted down the right flank. Finding space and cutting to the byline, Shekita zipped a pass into the feet of forward Harris Levin PO ’14, who composed himself before smashing home what proved to be the decisive goal from just inside the 18-yard box. Ten minutes later P-P had its second opportunity of the day, with Shekita once again turning provider as he found Drew Lind PZ ’14 in the box, although the midfielder’s low, hard effort came caroming back off the post. Those two attempts proved to be the Sagehens’ best of the match, as a calm defensive performance against a tepid Occidental attack saw P-P close out the victory with relative ease.
Chapman’s visit four days later provided P-P with a chance to leapfrog the Panthers, who came into the matchup just one place and one victory above the Sagehens in the SCIAC standings. The teams started out attempting to play a more possession-based game, with midfielders from both schools attempting to keep the ball on the ground instead of hitting it long. Chapman was more successful in the early stages, thanks in part to the propensity of the team’s fullbacks to get forward. The extra width Chapman was able to create stretched P-P and the team weathered some dangerous moments on the wings, although center backs Paul Picciano PO ’16 and Geordie Marriner PO ’15 were resolute in the heart of the Sagehens’ defense. As the half progressed, however, P-P grew increasingly confident, and a more physical approach in the center of midfield saw them disrupt Chapman’s rhythm, and slowly regain hold of the contest. Still, neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled by the opposing offense in a half with few clear-cut chances, although both did have to remain alert to sweep up some teasing crosses and long balls.
The Sagehens’ confident end to the first half continued at the start of the second, as they looked like the more lively and energetic team. P-P challenged Chapman, forcing it further back into its own defensive half and putting the Panthers midfield under pressure. However, in the 62nd minute, against the run of play, the home team found itself down 0-1. Taking advantage of a quick counterattack, Chapman forward Nick Echeverry made an incisive run through the Sagehen defense, going past a couple of players before hitting a low shot from the edge of the area past goalkeeper Nigel Brady PO ’15. The goal saw Chapman heads lift as they went in search of a game-clinching second, while P-P resorted to more hopeful long passes and set pieces, abandoning their more methodical approach of the first half as desperation to grab a result set in.
Brady quickly found himself called into action following the Panthers’ goal, as he hurriedly scrambled out a dangerous cross in the 69th minute and had to go sharply to his left in the 78th to make an exceptional save on a shot by Chapman’s Sam Rudich. P-P’s best chance in the second half came with just six minutes left to go in the match, as a pass found Voja Maric PO ’17 in the box. His shot was smothered by keeper Nick Berardi and the rebound fell to Levin, who stabbed the ball just wide of an open net. The game was finally decided with just 90 seconds to go; as the Sagehens pressed high up the field in an attempt to find an elusive goal, the ball fell to midfielder Dean Navarro, whose pass found Rudich in the left side channel. Rudich showed a good turn of pace to beat a defender and, at an acute angle to the onrushing Brady, waited for the keeper to commit himself before slotting the ball home to double Chapman’s advantage and put the final result beyond all doubt. Although P-P competed well, controlling stretches of the game and often looking dangerous, especially in the second half, the lack of a killer instinct proved its downfall yet again. With a losing record in SCIAC, the Sagehens’ season still has life, but there will be little margin for error going forward, starting with a visit to California Lutheran University this Saturday at 7 p.m.