Sagehens Find Success Against Stags

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team had a bittersweet week, with results from several games across the conference knocking the Sagehens out of postseason contention despite a fine victory against Sixth Street rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (6-7-4, 6-6-3 SCIAC). The Sagehens (8-8-3, 8-6-1 SCIAC) entered the week in touching distance of the playoff spots, but found themselves facing a season cut too short, as they are mathematically unable to finish in SCIAC’s regular season top four. P-P started the week with the last out-of-conference game of the season, with University of California, Santa Cruz as the visitors.

The Sagehens saw the match against the Banana Slugs as a chance to find some form ahead of a potentially decisive week, and started the game energetically, as did the visitors. After an end-to-end first 20 minutes, P-P broke the deadlock in the 25th as defender Michael Cork PO ’16 assisted forward Andrew Capron PO ’16, the forward scoring his second goal of the season in confident style.

Just four minutes later, Capron doubled his tally for the game, benefitting this time from a pass from midfielder JK Gopakumar PO ’17 to make it 2-0 and put the home team in a commanding position. Santa Cruz didn’t give up, however, and UCSC's Jacob Myers Norys scored two quick goals early in the second half, in the 62nd and 66th, to tie matters. With chances at a premium as the game wore on, the match eventually headed to OT, where the Sagehens found themselves overrun by a rampant Santa Cruz. Goalkeeper Ben Mitchell PZ ’18 proved to be the OT hero, making six saves in the course of 20 minutes to see the game out to a 2-2 stalemate.

The Sagehens then turned their attention to the key midweek game against CMS, with SCIAC survival all but on the line. Speaking ahead of the game, key forward Voja Maric PO ’17 repeated the message of keeping focus.

“Everyone on the team understands the importance of the next two games,” he said. “I think [we have] a lot of confidence and desire going into the final two must-win games.”

Maric would prove crucial to the game’s opening goal, which came at the end of a tense opening 30 minutes that saw both teams put in plenty of running but fail to piece together any meaningful forward play. A brief burst forward from P-P, however, saw Maric find a little space at the edge of the CMS penalty area and fire a shot. Goalkeeper Daniel Cui CM ’18 was able to parry the ball, only for the rebound to fall to the feet of the grateful forward Max DeWit PZ ’19, who blasted it home with ease.

The score seemed to give P-P’s attacking players confidence, and just a few minutes later DeWit was again involved in a scoring play. This time the forward turned provider, sliding a good ball into the path of forward Aidan Ferrer PO ’19 to finish past the helpless Cui.

With a two-goal advantage, the Sagehens were cruising and showed few signs of letting the Stags back into the game.

“[Teams] came to our field and worked harder than us which showed in the results … lapses in concentration cost us [games],” Maric bemoaned before the game, echoing concerns voiced by head coach Bill Swartz.

But there was no sign of such fragility from the home team, whose momentum persisted after halftime. The visiting Stags seemed at a loss, with Sagehen keeper Mitchell largely a spectator after his heroics against Santa Cruz. The result was put beyond doubt in the 60th minute, when Ferrer fed forward Peter Rentzepis PO ’18 for the latter’s first goal of the season. P-P did flag slightly following the dagger score, sitting slightly deeper, content to block out desperate CMS attacks. The Stags eventually scored off only their fourth shot on goal of the match, as midfielder Mehron Abdi CM ’17 squeezed in a header in the 81st minute.

A few minutes later and a free kick by midfielder Michael Crowley CM ’17 whistled just wide of Mitchell’s goal to temporarily threaten an unlikely comeback, but it was a case of too little, too late for the visitors, who were seen off by the Sagehens with a final of 3-1. The result, coupled with a scoreless draw between the two teams earlier this season, gave P-P a winning record in the two Sixth Street games this year, and thus saw the Sagehens claim supremacy in the Golden Boot rivalry cup for the first time since 2008. That was the only solace for P-P, however, which was eliminated from postseason contention after other SCIAC results fell unkindly. The Sagehens will now sign off on their season and bid a fond farewell to the Class of 2016 players, with a road match against heavyweight Chapman University (11-5-3, 10-4-1 SCIAC). CMS will also miss the playoffs, and ends its season hosting playoff-bound Occidental College (12-3-3, 9-3-3 SCIAC).

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