The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s soccer regular season came to a positive close on the night of Saturday, Oct. 29, with the Stags (11-6-1, 9-6-1 SCIAC) 1-0 win over the Whittier College Poets (4-13-1, 3-12-1 SCIAC), proving enough for CMS to pull ahead of rival Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC standings and secure a spot in the post-season conference tournament. CMS will appear in the tournament for the first time since 2013.
The night was also special because the team was able to honor its nine outgoing senior players, who played at home for the final time. Head Coach Matt Edwards attested to the importance of the seniors, a “class that’s always been in transition. They’ve continued to show great resolve, so it was about honoring them with the type of performance we put in, not necessarily the result, ” said Edwards.
“The key [was] not to panic,” said Edwards, speaking about the team’s ability to maintain the same quality amid not having an end result, in spite of a dominant first half performance. The game started with the Stags in control of the match, dominating possession and outshooting their opponents by a margin of ten shots to two in the first half. However, CMS was unable to break their opposition’s defense down and headed into halftime still in a 0-0 deadlock. Edwards later added on that “it was just about remaining focused. The important thing is not to panic and to keep going. So, I thought [our response] was good].”
The team was finally able to break the tie early in the second half when a shot by Ian Shelton CM ‘17 was deflected in front of teammate Ryan Karle CM ‘17, who tapped the ball in for a goal. Despite the result still hanging in the balance, CMS put forth a strong defensive display for the final half an hour and maintained their 1-0 lead until the final whistle.
Edwards remarked that “going into the tournament, we’ve won two [games] on the bounce, and we’ve had two shutouts. That’s a good situation to be going into the tournament” making the point that the team’s strong defense has been crucial to the team’s late-season success and could be imperative to their continued success in upcoming fixtures.
That tournament begins with the semifinal round on Thursday, Nov. 3, as the fourth-seeded Stags visit the top-seeded University of Redlands Bulldogs, a team that defeated CMS twice in two regular season matchups. In those matchups, CMS lost 2-1 and then 5-1. Jake Skoll CM ’18 and Patrick Burke CM ’20 scored the only two goals for the Stags. Despite the two losses, Edwards sees reason for optimism, stating that the Bulldogs will be under more pressure, while also pointing out that his team outshot Redlands in both regular season matches, meaning that their ability to finish chances will be key to their success in the tournament.
Edwards also points to the team’s closeness as a group as one of their strongest attributes that will help them persevere, that the seniors “can take all credit for [the team’s closeness]. They’re a fantastic group of guys, they absolutely adore being around each other, they have a lot of fun together, they’re a very happy group. That’s the kind of team that you want to be a part of.”