The sun beat down on midfielder Jk Gopakumar PO '17 as he placed the ball on the penalty spot. After a hard 90-minute battle between the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (3-4-1, 3-2 SCIAC) and the Chapman University Panthers (4-4-2, 3-3 SCIAC), this could be it, the golden goal, three minutes into sweaty, intense overtime.
The crowd was still. The players hovered at the edge of the box, ready to swarm in. The keeper shifted on his line, getting ready for a save.
The only one who wasn’t holding his breath was probably Gopakumar himself.
“I knew where I was going to put it, and I knew if I put it there with enough power, the keeper wouldn’t get it,” Gopakumar said. “I didn’t really feel nervous at all.”
Setting his gaze to the right of the keeper, he shot. His self-confidence paid off as the ball nestled in the back of the net and his teammates surrounded him, celebrating while the crowd cheered.
Gopakumar knew there was a chance he would take the penalty kick if the referee called one.
“Before the game, Coach makes a list of people who can take a penalty kick, and the person who gets fouled can’t take the kick; it was me and Voja [Maric PO '17] on that list,” he said. “There was a sense of relief, because that was end of the fourth game—the long stretch—and we really needed that win.”
It was indeed the end of a long stretch, as the team played a total of four games in six days. The Sagehens suffered back-to-back losses, falling 2-0 to Whittier College (3-3-1, 2-2-1) on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and then battling to a tough 2-1 defeat against Washington University in St. Louis (4-1-2) on Friday, Sept. 18, before resurging in their next two games against California Lutheran University (2-5-1, 2-3) and Chapman.
Coming off of the loss on Friday, the team still felt strong—after all, leaving the field with 2-1 on the scoreboard against the No. 24 Division 3 team in the nation is not a bad result.
“We got some really good performances from a lot of guys on the team,” forward Peter Rentzepis PO '18 said. “We definitely grew a lot during that game.”
Then, on Saturday, Sept. 19, the Sagehens pinned down Cal Lutheran 3-2 with a goal in the 93rd minute from Rentzepis. After forward Max DeWit PZ ’19 notched two goals for the Sagehens to help engineer a 2-2 draw heading into overtime, Rentzepis scored the game-winning goal in extra time to send the Sagehens home victorious.
As for the shot, Rentzepis recalled, “It was mostly an instinct reaction—you’re in the box, and you get the ball. I was lucky the ball bounced around on my feet and I got a good shot off.”
After the taxing six-day streak, the team is glad to have a small break.
“It’s good to have a couple of days off, especially since we play CMS on Saturday,” Gopakumar said. “That will be a fun game.”