Stingy Defense Proves to Be Key for Stags Soccer

The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s soccer team got its season well and truly on track this past week, winning at home against Whittier College (3-3-1, 2-2-1 SCIAC), before fighting to a respectable draw at Occidental College (6-0-2, 3-0-2) in midweek. The SCIAC season had started discouragingly for the Stags (2-3-2, 2-2-1 SCIAC), who lost both their opening games in the conference before easing to a win over struggler California Institute of Technology (0-5).

Last Saturday’s visitor Whittier was likely to be a more difficult test, but the Stags started positively, coming out on the front foot. CMS controlled the tempo, keeping the ball with relative ease and patiently probing in Whittier’s half. While the Poets struggled to string together any meaningful plays, they did work hard to close down CMS shots on goal and deny a clear-cut chance for the home team.

The second half started the same way, with Whittier mostly on the back foot and CMS in the ascendance but unable to find a lethal touch, with the likes of midfielder Hogan Marhoefer CM ’16 providing plenty of hustle.

A breakthrough finally came in the 66th minute, when midfielder Alex Censullo CM ’17 drove down the right flank before wrapping his foot around the ball to deliver a pinpoint cross to the head of forward Michael Wagenveld CM ’18. The tall striker watched the ball all the way, making firm contact to score past the helpless goalkeeper Jorge Rivas in the Whittier box.

With around 25 minutes of the match still left, the threat for a Whittier comeback was still on, but the Poets seemed to deal with the oppressive heat less effectively than the Stags and posed little scoring danger. Indeed, it was the home team who came closest to the game’s second goal, as midfielder Ryan Karle CM ’17 smashed a shot from an angle that cannoned off the left upright.

A second win in a row looked to give CMS some crucial confidence ahead of a Monday trip to Occidental, a team that entered the clash atop the SCIAC standings and unbeaten in five. Both teams started eager to attack, with CMS drawing some early saves from Oxy keeper Theo Atkinson.

It was Stags keeper Daniel Cui CMC ’18 who ended up being the busier of the two in the opening minutes, however, after CMS conceded an eighth-minute penalty on a clumsy tackle following a rebound. Oxy’s Valdair Martins-Lopes stepped up to give the conference leaders the early advantage, but saw his kick kept out by a good save from Cui.

After the opening flurry, however, chances died down, with both teams playing each other to a stalemate in midfield. The Tigers thought they had broken open the deadlock late in the first half when Tod Kawada slotted home a shot that bounced off CMS’ crossbar but was called to be offside.

The second half saw CMS slowly begin to drop back as Oxy worked a few passable chances, only to find Cui resolute in his hunt for a clean sheet. Despite lacking some of the same biting edge they had against Whittier, the Stags could be proud of their performance, committing themselves physically and frustrating their usually offensively high-powered hosts.

With a 0-0 draw after the 90 minutes, the game headed into a thirty minute extra time period. CMS was the team who found itself on top in ET, however, with the home team relying on its keeper Atkinson to make a save in each half, seeing the game out to a goalless draw. After such a physically taxing encounter, CMS is now in the midst of a welcome five-day break as they prepare to welcome Sixth Street rivals Pomona-Pitzer in a key Saturday night encounter on the 26th.

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