The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team’s season came to an abrupt end as the Redlands Bulldogs, ranked 15th nationally, shut out the Sagehens 3-0 in the SCIAC Tournament semifinal. The victory extended the Bulldogs’ win streak to 16 games.
After losing both regular-season games to a team that went unbeaten in SCIAC play, Pomona-Pitzer entered the semifinal match down two players due to injury. A knee injury kept Evan Munoz PZ ’12 off the field last week in a game against Cal Lutheran, the Sagehens’ last game of the regular season, and goalkeeper Rollie Thayer PO ’13 broke his ankle during a non-contact drill last Sunday, giving Nate Anderson PO ’12 the chance to start in his final collegiate game. Gator Halpern PO ’12 and Owen Hawkins PO ’12 also finished their collegiate athletic careers against Redlands.
Energized by a large home crowd, Redlands started the game strong, pinning P-P in their own half for the first ten minutes. During this time, Redlands nearly chipped Anderson twice, but both shots floated just past the far post. Early on, Redlands’ high pressure frustrated P-P’s possession game as the Sagehens struggled to string any number of passes together in either half. But P-P’s young team soon settled their nerves and began to knock the ball around, penetrating into Redlands’ half and finding passes inside their penalty area. Aside from the first ten minutes, the teams looked evenly matched. Unfortunately, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Redlands capitalized on a corner kick when a crowd of players blocked Anderson from punching the ball and Charles Izydorek ’15 headed the ball into the back of the net, securing a 1-0 lead for his team heading into halftime.
In the second half, P-P fought back early but couldn’t quite find the goal to level the score. The Sagehens recorded the first quality chance of the half when Lawrence McDonald PO ’15 laid off a bouncing ball at the top of the 18-yard box for Arash Mahboubi PO ’15, whose volley sailed over the crossbar.
In the next ten minutes, Anderson performed well, keeping his team in the game with two great saves. In the 53rd minute, Anderson fully extended himself to tip a shot just outside the frame of his goal. Three minutes later, he stormed out to smother a breakaway that should have put Redlands up 2-0.
In the 63rd minute, P-P nearly tied the game when Mahboubi broke through the Bulldogs’ midfield before playing Nate Shekita PO ’15 in behind the defense. Shekita crossed the ball into the six-yard box for Michael Ceragioli PO ’14, who slotted the ball just outside the near post. For the next ten minutes, the Sagehens captured the momentum of the game as they ran at the Bulldogs’ backline, twisting and turning through defenders. P-P seemed to gain more and more confidence, until a long throw-in for Redlands allowed Alex Laughton ’13 to tee up a volley inside P-P’s penalty area and hammer it past Anderson.
Six minutes later, the Bulldogs extended their lead when Redlands star Cody Carlson ’12 received a wide ball before cutting across P-P’s backline and firing a shot across his body into the net—extinguishing any hope for a P-P comeback. Despite the scoreline, the Sagehens looked dangerous up until the final minute. With less than ten minutes remaining, Danny Nasry PO ’13 found the endline before whipping a ball back across the face of the goal for Shekita, who forced Redlands goalkeeper Jason Smuckler into a tough save. Despite Redlands’ 21-10 advantage in shots over the course of the game, P-P walked off the field having created many quality opportunities.
Although the loss puts the Sagehens’ final season record at 10-9 (9-6 in SCIAC), the season must be considered a success. After finishing the 2010 season 7-8 in SCIAC, the team started at least five first-years in nearly every game in 2011. These talented young players gained invaluable experience at the collegiate level as they tested their technical abilities against a new class of athletes. Captains Erik Munzer PZ ’13 and Robbie Hull PO ’13 led their team to seven shutouts and 27 goals. The team will return every starter next season, and barring any sensational arrivals in next year’s freshman class, the team could easily field the same squad. Look for will-be senior leaders Nasry and Thayer to step up alongside their captains in an even more successful season, where the Sagehens will surely compete for the SCIAC title.