The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team’s (7-8-2, 7-6-1 SCIAC) season hangs on a knife edge heading into the last few rounds of SCIAC regular season play, with two disappointing losses in the past week leaving the Sagehens just outside of the conference playoff spots.
P-P began the week on Saturday, Oct. 17 playing host to SCIAC conference leader, the University of Redlands (12-2-2, 10-2-1 SCIAC). The Bulldogs started on the front foot immediately and found the back of the net in just the eighth minute, as Casey Chubbfertal scored past P-P’s GK Ben Mitchell PZ ’18. Mitchell made two saves throughout the first half, which was an evenly-matched affair, with the Sagehens themselves forcing a couple of blocks from the visiting keeper.
Halftime arrived with the game evenly matched, but the visiting team started the second half on fire offensively to put the match away. Chase Boone assisted Keoni Yates for a goal in the 52nd minute, before the former got on the scoreboard with a 57th-minute strike off a Sergio Valencia assist.
Despite industrious performances from the likes of forward Voja Maric PO ’17 and midfielder JK Gopakumar PO ’17, the Sagehens never got back in the game after such a devastating salvo, with Redlands showing plenty of defensive composure to go along with its attacking flair. The visitors capped off an impressively complete performance in the 81st minute with a fourth goal, as the Hens lost 4-0.
The Sagehens looked to rebound quickly just two days later, as they once again hosted a fellow SCIAC playoff contender in the form of the University of La Verne (12-4-1, 8-4-1 SCIAC). On a hot Monday afternoon, both teams struggled to find rhythm early, with Maric being the only player from either side to force a save in the opening forty minutes. With just seconds to halftime, however, P-P did manage to strike first, as forward Aidan Ferrer PO ’19 found space on the right wing to whip a cross in toward midfielder Jacob Merkle PO ’18 for the sophomore to finish with aplomb.
P-P didn’t manage to hold on for long after halftime, as the Sagehens were punished for a lack of concentration in the 51st minute, when a sloppy pass between the two centerbacks was intercepted by Jacob Funes, who held off a couple defenders to score. The game did open up slightly after that, with plenty of back-and-forth between the two sides, although clear chances were still hard to come by.
With just minutes to go, the Sagehens were seemingly given the chance for the decisive breakthrough, as they were awarded a penalty kick in the 87th minute. Gopakumar stepped up and slotted a confident penalty for his second goal of the season, but defensive lapses were to come back to haunt the home team. Just a minute after the PK, a long free kick was launched by La Verne into the Sagehens’ penalty area, with a deflected ball finding the feet of Briley Venti to finish from close range.
The game went into extra time with P-P seemingly deflated by conceding such a poor late equalizer. With chances remaining sparse, it took until the second period of overtime for the decisive golden goal to be struck. A Leopard corner in the 106th minute found the head of Saul Uribe, whose initial header was blocked, only for the rebound to fall right to him to smash the decisive goal in off the bottom of the crossbar.
With two deflating results coming back to back, P-P did get an opportunity to get back to some sort of winning ways with the visit of winless California Institute of Technology (0-13, 0-13 SCIAC) on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The Sagehens had the chance to give head coach Bill Swartz his 300th career victory, but started a little slowly, scoring their first goal only in the 43rd minute, with Ferrer feeding forward Peter Rentzepis PO ’18 for the opener.
Ferrer was the assist-maker once more in the 47th, as his low cross from the right was converted by forward/midfielder Felipe Galvis PO ’17. The floodgates truly opened after that, as Gopakumar’s surging run saw the midfielder slot in Maric for a strong finish in the 51st. The 58th minute saw some good play by Merkle, and defender Mark Raftrey PO ’16 force an own goal in off a Caltech player.
Just a minute later and a fifth was on the board, as midfielder/defender Paul Picciano PO ’16 powered in a header following a scramble after a Caltech save. The sixth and final goal came in the 79th minute, as Maric placed a perfect cross on the head of Rentzepis for the sophomore to round off the scoring and to give Swartz, the current active leader in SCIAC for career wins, his 300th victory in his 28th season at the helm of the P-P program.
The resounding result over traditional SCIAC minnows Caltech may have been expected, but will hopefully lend some confidence to the Sagehens ahead of a Saturday, Oct. 24 match against the University of California, Santa Cruz, which will be followed by do-or-die encounters next week against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (5-6-4, 5-5-3 SCIAC) and Chapman University (9-5-3, 8-4-1 SCIAC).