P-P Men’s Soccer Overpowers Caltech 4-2

A solid if slightly frustrating week for the Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team ended on Monday when the Sagehens secured a 4-2 victory over Caltech two days after tying California Lutheran University on the road. Although both were positive results for P-P,  the points gained in those matches failed to give P-P much of a boost in the SCIAC standings and it remains third from the bottom. The tie against the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen last Saturday was especially frustrating, as the Hens were seconds away from walking away with a 1-0 win before the Kingsmen were able to net a last-second goal to send the game to overtime. The Hens now have an overall record of 4-8-1 and are 3-5-1 in SCIAC play.

Against the Kingsmen, P-P controlled proceedings for most of the first half and broke open the scoring in the 39th minute, with Nathan Shekita PO ’15 pouncing on a lose ball in the box and sliding it into the path of fellow midfielder Jk Gopakumar PO ’17. Gopakumar took over from there and provided a tidy close-range finish. The Sagehens continued to carve out good attacking opportunities in the second half, while the home side had keeper Jack Duncan to thank for keeping the game a close contest. Voja Maric PO ’17 and Lawrence McDonald PZ ’15 were among the Sagehen players who failed to convert promising chances against the Cal Lutheran goalie.

The lack of a killer finishing touch from P-P proved to be fatal in the end. With 11 seconds left to go out of the full 90 minutes, a free kick from Cal Lutheran’s Salvador Orozco was headed into the path of defender Alex Wardle, who stretched to poke the ball into the back of the net. Obviously disappointed, the Sagehens turned in a slightly sloppier performance during two 15-minute periods of extra time, as both teams were visibly tired under unfavorable mid-afternoon conditions, ending the match in a 1-1 draw.

Their vital road win harshly snapped away with literally seconds to go, a win against Caltech was something of a necessity for P-P to stay competitive in the conference. The Beavers have struggled to garner any kind of form this season; they came into the clash on Monday with a 0-10 record overall and 51 goals conceded, and they sat at the bottom of the SCIAC standings. 

The Sagehens controlled the early exchanges, pressing into Caltech’s half and winning most of the contests in defense and midfield. The first goal of the match came in the 14th minute, as Matty Marvin PO ’17 found Arash Mahboubi PO ’15 in the lefthand channel on a quick break forward, with the junior midfielder drilling a low shot across his body and into the corner of the Caltech goal. 

P-P continued to be on the offensive for the rest of the first half, consistently looking to play early balls into the box, but it failed to see returns on the scoreboard. The Sagehens were made to pay for their lack of offensive finishing in the second half when a ricocheting ball caught the hand of a P-P defender and saw the Beavers get awarded a penalty in the 56th minute. Midfielder Marec Sterlin stepped up to slot home the spot kick, and the visitors sensed an opportunity to grab the first result of their season. Seven minutes later, however, the Sagehens once again grabbed the lead. A probing cross by Shekita found forward Ian Maier PO ’14 at the back post, who headed home from a tight angle. 

From then on, P-P calmly wrested back control of proceedings, and never looked in real danger of surrendering its lead for a second time. In the 76th minute, Gopakumar showed good footwork to lose his marker on the edge of the Beavers’ 18-yard box before chipping a delicate ball over to Drew Lind PZ ’14, who made a good run to get free for a header and a goal.

First-year midfielder Gopakumar, who showed good vision and awareness all day, would score a goal of his own just four minutes later when he made a crossing run behind the defense. A well-weighted McDonald through ball found the Pomona first-year, who slotted the ball past the onrushing Caltech keeper. With a three-goal cushion, the Sagehens were truly in cruise control.

While P-P held on to win, the Beavers notched another goal. Several P-P defenders failed to block a speculative free kick sent into the box in the 82nd minute, and Caltech midfielder Juan Pablo Ocampo was the first to get a touch to the ball. He beat keeper Nigel Brady PO ’15, who enjoyed a relatively inactive day apart from the two successful Beavers chances.   

The Sagehens return to the pitch this Saturday to take on the Whittier Poets, who barely held on for the 1-0 win the last time these two sides met. The Hens will get a chance to avenge that loss at 11 a.m. on their home turf.

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