Sagehens Fall Short of Expectations, Look Ahead to Next Year

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team’s season ultimately fell short of expectations. Ahead of the
season, on paper the Sagehens looked as if they would stay
competitive with the majority of the other sides in the nine-team SCIAC. P-P was,
as always, aiming to finish among the top four in the division to clinch a place in the postseason conference tournament that offers progression
to the NCAA tournament. The squad also had a good chemistry and structure, with a core of key upperclassmen supplemented by promising younger talent.
There was reason for the team to be optimistic and hopes were high for at
least a winning season, if not a chance at postseason play.

home games to start the season gave the Sagehens the chance to
create some positive momentum.
Unfortunately, P-P opened the year on a sour note, losing two of their first
three competitive fixtures. The games were all out-of-conference match-ups and
thus of slightly reduced significance, but the stop-start results portended a
rough start to SCIAC play as P-P lost its first three league encounters. The
second match in the losing streak was a particularly frustrating loss to rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, in a game that went to two thrilling overtimes before the Stags scored a late
winner to dash the Sagehens’ hopes.

P-P had to wait until Sept. 21 for
their first win, a 4-0 romp over Caltech. However, the result failed to yield
a turnaround in fortune, and the team won one and lost three out of their next four
fixtures, dropping to the lower reaches of the SCIAC rankings. Not that the Sagehens
were necessarily being outclassed; for large stretches of most matches, P-P
was highly competitive with even the toughest opponents. Unfortunately,
the side was also prone to lulls or disruptions in their rhythm, inviting
excess pressure on themselves that often led to decisive scores in tightly-contested duels.

Oct. 5
saw P-P at the receiving end of agonizing misfortune on the road against a
tough California Lutheran University. The Sagehens held the lead for most of the match after
scoring early in the first half, only for the hosts to tie up affairs on a last-ditch effort with just 11 seconds left in regulation. The Sagehens failed to respond in two
overtime periods and settled for the draw. Still, the team’s positive play in the game seemed to jump-start the team, and four wins in the next five games (including a redemptive triumph over CMS) put the Sagehens at least somewhat
back in the mix for a SCIAC postseason place, having temporarily been in danger
of being left adrift. A loss in a do-or-die encounter at Chapman University on Oct. 26,
however, all but eliminated P-P from playoff contention, as the squad
eventually finished with an in-conference record of 7-8-1, good for seventh

the disappointment in terms of the final standings, there were some bright spots for
the Sagehens, particularly for a few top performers. One of
the most notable success stories was attacker Voja Maric PO ’17, a
consistent creative outlet who finished as the team’s top scorer with seven goals (four
more than the second highest) after being converted from a striker to a right

“Adjusting to the role of an outside midfielder was challenging,” Maric said. But his play didn’t seem to suffer from the change, and his inventiveness
saw him at the center of a lot of P-P’s best attacking moves. Individual
exploits aside, Maric believes that the Sagehens will improve next year, and
that ambitions remain high. 

“While we did lose a lot of key players in the
senior class, I think we have a lot of potential in the rest of the
squad … finishing in the top four of the SCIAC is always a target for us, and I
think it is a realistic goal,” Maric said.

At the
other end of the pitch, keeper Nigel Brady PO ’15 had a fine season, often
coming up with stops at timely moments to keep the Sagehens in games.
Although there were points where he was tested a little too often for his liking,
Brady’s consistency gives the team a good foundation from which to build a
tight defense. Nathan Shekita PO ’15 also maintained a high
standard of performance throughout the season, with his composure and drive in
midfield often proving vital for P-P. 

Individual accomplishments are secondary to team success, but there are plenty of signs to suggest that
the team has the talent necessary to reassert themselves in SCIAC play. The last
step remaining for the Sagehens is to find some consistency to go along
with the quality.

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