Historic Sagehen Season Comes to an End

The
Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team’s exciting postseason run ended in
heartbreaking fashion this past weekend, with a 2-0 defeat at the University of
Texas, Dallas, in the NCAA Regionals.

The
Sagehens (14-6-2, 10-4-2 SCIAC) traveled to Dallas last Saturday in the wake of clinching the program’s first-ever SCIAC Postseason Tournament title, which, in turn, helped the team bookmark progression to the NCAA Division III
Tournament for the first time in 34 years. P-P was then drawn into the
four-team UT Dallas sub-regional and faced an opening encounter against the
host school.

The two
teams’ last meeting came in September of last year at Pomona, with the Sagehens
falling to a humbling 4-0 defeat against the high-powered Temocs. UT Dallas,
however, required an at-large bid to enter the NCAA Tournament this year after
failing to win its conference, and the visitors entered the game with
confidence.

“We knew that UT Dallas would look to keep us from moving
the ball, so I just reminded the men to be brave on the ball and to look to get
into key attacking areas,” head coach Bill Swartz said of P-P’s pre-game
strategy.

The
plan seemed to reap dividends during an evenly-contested first half,
although wet weather prevented both sides from realizing their full attacking
potential. Neither goalkeeper was all that busy, with Nigel Brady PO ’15 making
only one save in the first half off a 26th minute effort from Omar
Jaroun.

Despite
the muted performance, Swartz went into halftime pleased with his team’s
effort.

“I
was happy with our first half as we worked to establish the attacking platforms
we needed to control the pace of the game,” Swartz said. “At half we reminded
the guys to continue to accelerate the attack when in good attacking areas.”

Things
did start to heat up as the second half got underway, as both teams became a little more adventurous. UT Dallas attacker Danny Meyer began to establish
himself as a threat, drawing two early saves from Brady, while Matthew Marvin
PO ’17 also had a good attempt blocked by Temoc keeper Joseph Weber.

It
was eventually Meyer, however, who struck the first blow, thanks in no small
part to the slick conditions. Taking a corner kick in the 64th
minute, Meyer’s delivery skidded through a crowd of players in the P-P area,
rebounded off the far post, and rolled over the line, giving the home team a
1-0 lead in the strangest of circumstances.

“Sometimes
the game we love is terribly cruel,” Swartz said.

Still,
the Sagehens refused to succumb without putting up a fight and came close
to an equalizer in the 79th minute. Midfielder Jake Merkle PO ’18
rose high on a P-P corner kick to head a well-directed effort toward the goal,
but Weber came up big for the hosts as he made a finger-tip save to preserve
the lead.

Drew
Lind PZ ’15 and Marvin had some other half-chances in the last several minutes, but both fired wide without testing Weber. With the whole team pressing for a
last-ditch equalizer, P-P finally succumbed to a counterattack in the 90th
minute as Meyer assisted Julian Torres, who made it 2-0 with just 24 seconds
left in the game to seal UT Dallas’ passage and end the Sagehens’ season.

With
the loss, the college careers of seniors Brady, Lind, Arash Mahboubi PO ’15,
Nathan Shekita PO ’15, Avery Raimondo PO ’15 and Geordie Marriner PO ’15 came
to an end. Despite
a tough final game, the six seniors can look back on their college
careers with well-earned satisfaction after winning a regular season SCIAC
title in 2012 to go with this year’s NCAA trip.

While
the seniors prepare to depart the team, however, Swartz was confident that the
bonds formed by years of playing side-by-side will pass the test of time.

“This
is a season that when these men come together again in five, ten, fifteen,
twenty years, they will speak fondly about and remember,” Swartz said. “Not the
loss, but the journey.”

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