Hens Split Weekend Games, Playoff Hopes Fizzle

Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team saw its slim hopes of grabbing a playoff spot
in the SCIAC conference extinguished after splitting two road games against
fellow postseason hopefuls Chapman University and Occidental College. A 1-0 loss at Chapman on
Saturday, Oct. 26 followed by a 2-1 win against Occidental on Wednesday, Oct. 30 leaves the
Sagehens playing for pride in their final regular season game coming up this Saturday at home against Redlands University. 

The Chapman match in particular shaped up to be particularly vital to P-P’s playoff hopes, with the Panthers
hoping to solidify their grip on fourth place—the last postseason berth in the
SCIAC and the one closest to the Sagehens’ reach.

With so much at stake, P-P had to
come out on the offensive and they delivered, putting Chapman keeper Nick
Berardi under early pressure with several shots and threatening set pieces
within the first 10 minutes. Such early pressure seemed to give the Sagehens
plenty of impetus to go on and take the lead, but the resolute Panthers defense
held firm, allowing the home side to slowly work their way back into general
play. Still, Chapman was ineffective up front and failed to carve out any telling
opportunities, mustering only a couple token efforts on goal throughout most of
the first half.

However, in the 44th
minute, with just seconds to go until halftime, Chapman scored a decisive goal. A through ball by Chapman’s Daniel Maliykar found Karim Gill one-on-one with keeper Nigel Brady PO ‘15, who was helpless to keep out the finish.
The goal seemed to shell-shock P-P, especially due to its inopportune timing. The start of the second half saw a much tamer side of the Sagehens. Berardi was
not nearly as worked as he was early in the first period, and the game devolved
into a more physical contest throughout most of the second 45,
characterized by plenty of fouls in the middle of the field.

In the last 15 minutes of the game,
however, with virtual postseason elimination facing P-P, the team
picked up their tempo. Geordie Marriner PO ‘15, Paul Picciano ‘16, and Lawrence
MacDonald PZ ‘15 all managed to get on the end of decent scoring chances, but
Berardi remained sharp, pulling off some good stops to preserve the home team’s 1-0 win and solidify the Panthers’ hold on the final playoff spot in SCIAC. 

With such a demoralizing loss, P-P faced a tough task to regain spirit
ahead of their final road game of the year as they visited Occidental, a team
with only one win in the conference this year. Just as they did against the Panthers, the
Sagehens started the match very much on the front foot, with midfielders Nathan
Shekita PO ‘15 and Matty Marvin PO ‘17 at the center of a couple of early
chances which forced saves from Tigers keeper Tristan Cooper.

However, similar to the Chapman game,
P-P failed to keep the early momentum going and started to lose their grip on
proceedings as the first half wore on. Dangerous attacking moves were hard to
come by, although the Sagehens didn’t seem in real danger of conceding against
a scrappy Occidental offense. However, early in the second half a foray
forward by the home team saw Connor Freeman rattle an attempt off the crossbar,
only for Marcus Brandford to bundle home the rebound. With postseason
elimination looming, P-P looked to resurrect a comeback: Shekita in particular
looked dangerous, once again testing Cooper with regular attempts on goal.

Still, as the
game approached the final 10 minutes, a victory looked highly unlikely for the
visitors until the 78th minute, when Voja Maric PO ‘17 found space
in the box behind the defense to slot home a much-needed equalizer. Sensing
blood, the Sagehens continued to spur forward against a flustered Tigers
defense and Maric was again at the heart of play, his searching pass finding
Harris Levin PO ‘16 with enough time and space for the forward to squirm home
the winner past a despairing Cooper. It would prove to be Levin’s third game-winner in P-P’s last four games against the Tigers as the P-P defense managed
to hold on, although Brady was called into a couple of sharp saves late on to
preserve the victory. Despite the good result, however, the Sagehens are out of the running for a SCIAC playoff spot, regardless of the result in their home match against a powerhouse Redlands
side this Saturday, Nov. 2.

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