Men’s Soccer Looks to Unseat Redlands

One year after a stunning playoff run, Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer has high hopes for the ’09 season.“We all have our eyes set on winning the league this year, and we all have our hearts set on winning the Golden Boot,” Zack Mirman PO ’11 said. Mirman has started for three years as the right back on the team, and each year his desire to dominate SCIAC has grown stronger.This year, those dreams are much closer to becoming reality. With a dynamic lineup, an experienced coach, and proven leadership, the Sagehens have started the season with a four-game winning streak, scoring 11 times and allowing only one fluky goal to Caltech.Last season, after sneaking into the SCIAC playoffs as the fourth seed, P-P pulled off a stunning 1-0 upset of Occidental and earned a spot in the championship game. The Sagehens then played a gutsy match against seven-time champion Redlands but wound up on the wrong side of a 2-1 double-overtime thriller.“We were up against a really solid team, but we all battled for 110 minutes,” Mirman said. “In the end, it just didn’t go our way.”But like a phoenix, the 2009 Sagehens have been born anew from last year’s ashes. They’re stronger, too—brimming with the kind of quiet confidence that comes after competing with the best of the best. Their lineup is loaded with talent, old and new alike.Captain Zach Burke PO ’10 played forward in high school and club soccer, but switched to defense at Pomona. Now back in his old position, he has to be an intimidating physical presence on the field, using all of his rugged 6’4” frame to win headers and separate his opponents from the ball.Burke’s partner up front is James Yong PI ’13, an Australian exchange student. New to the team this year, Yong has quickly proven himself to be a big shooter who can pepper opposing keepers with shots.P-P has an entirely new cast of characters in the midfield, but it’s a talented lot. Mirman expressed his enthusiasm for the “really promising new talent on the squad.”“They all have something really special to bring to the team,” he said.Robbie Hull PO ’13 and Danny Nasry PO ’13 control the center midfield. Hull, a rare treat to watch, is the kind of flexible player who can win games with either brute force or technical brilliance. Nasry is a magnet for the ball and a visionary once he controls it. Together, the two will be the major catalysts of the Sagehen offense.Flanking the midfielders will be Gator Halpern PO ’12 and Evan Munoz PI ’12. Munoz, who goes by the alias ‘Turbo,” is an escape artist born to sneak between defenders and score goals. As his nickname suggests, Munoz has the kind of quick feet and afterburners that allow him to disappear behind defenses. Halpern has the ability to run aggressively at defenses from the outside, and can create opportunities for his teammates as well as himself.In charge of the defense are center backs Alec Larson PO ’11 and Eben Perkins PO ‘11. At 6 feet 5 inches, Perkins doesn’t just tower over opposing forwards, he actually scrapes the skies of Claremont to win headers. Larson is sneakily explosive with the ball at his feet, but always cool as ice when it comes to defusing an attack. Rounded out with Mirman and the 6-foot-1-inch Erik Munzer PI ’13, the Sagehen defense hopes use its size to gain an edge.The scary thing about this P-P team is that it could get even better. The Sagehens have suffered serious injuries to some key players. Most notably, the trio of Wynn Sullivan PO ’10, Andrew Stamm PO ’10, and Charlie Balter PO ’10 has been put out of commission by back injuries. Sullivan returned to play against Whittier last Saturday, but it is unclear when P-P will get Stamm, one of its star midfielders, and Balter, its returning keeper, back. In the meantime, freshmen have stepped up to fill the gaps. At the start of the season, Rollie Thayer PO ’13 has proven himself to be a phenomenal starting goalie.The Sagehens have a strong bench, too. Harry Hanson PO ’10, Mike Ricciuti PI ’10, and Sean Wales PO ’11 have all logged plenty of quality time on the pitch. In at the coach’s seat on the end of that bench is Bill Swartz, returning for his 23rd year with the Sagehens.All in all, things are looking up for the Sagehens. The season may still be young, but this team appears ready.The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team plays at home this Saturday against Occidental at 11 a.m.

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