Men’s Soccer Rides Atop SCIAC with 6-1 Record with Boost from Freshman Class

Conventional sports wisdom suggests that a veteran team has the best chance to succeed. From Tim Tebow’s return to the top-ranked Florida Gators in D-I football, or the San Antonio Spurs’ insistence on starting a lineup of 30-somethings, it is clear that experience is considered very valuable.On the other hand, every once in a while, a team will have a miracle freshman or rookie to propel it into playoffs. Think Carmelo Anthony on Syracuse, or Kevin Durant on Texas.This year, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team has decided to combine the savvy vet with the upstart youth.The Sagehens are riding high on top of SCIAC with a 5-1 record and victories over league powerhouses Redlands, La Verne and Occidental. Although the team returned a number of key seniors and juniors this year, a big reason for their success has been the newcomers to the team—the Class of 2013.Right now, four freshmen hold starting spots, and all nine have contributed greatly to the team’s recent three-game winning streak. Rollie Thayer PO ’13 took over as goalkeeper for an injured Charlie Balter PO ’10 at the start of the season and has allowed just four goals in six SCIAC matches. Central midfielder Robbie Hull PO ’13 netted a crucial goal at La Verne, and Danny Nasry PO ’13 has recorded a goal and two assists in the past three games. James Yong PO ’13, Derek Owens-Oas PO ’13, Erik Munzer PI ’13, and Eddie Fernandez PI ’13 have all seen significant playing time.What do the youngest Sagehens have to say about their experience with P-P soccer thus far? I sat down with most of them (Thayer, Yong, and Jason Engle PO ’13 were absent) over dinner to discuss life on and off the pitch as a student-athlete.If the soccer team ever remade the movie “Unforgiven,” Nasry would be the Schofield Kid—an eager young shooter who has already taken over the team’s attack.“We call him ‘Danny of Nazareth, the Chosen One,’” said Daniel Holleb PO ’10. Despite being P-P’s leading scorer and one of the youngest Sagecocks of the Week on record, Nasry is quiet and humble in person. “I love soccer, I don’t know how else to describe it,” Nasry said. “Getting a world-class education while playing the sport you love is more than anyone could ask for.”Nasry seemed eager to talk about his teammates as well.“Getting to know all of the guys really well and spending time together has been great,” he said. “All the guys are really cool, and the commitment level here is just much greater than in high school. Every game feels like a playoff game because it just means so much to everyone. The leadership from the seniors has been incredible, too.”Owens-Oas, a midfielder, also had a lot to say about the team aspect of college soccer.“I liked that we all started the season with a common goal, and that was to do better than last year,” he said. “Having that common goal starts friendships and helps us gain unity.”Fernandez also stressed the team’s strength in unity. “It’s four years’ worth of players, not just one group,” he said. “Everyone works to make you feel welcome.”Not everyone was new to playing with each other, though. Many of this year’s freshmen knew each other from high school soccer.Munzer and Jake Weissberg PI ’12 went to high school together in Beverly Hills, where they played on the same back line (sometimes against P-P defender Zack Mirman ’11, who attended Harvard-Westlake). When it came time for Munzer to decide where to go to school, he consulted Weissberg.“We were good friends before in high school, so we talked about it quite a lot,” Munzer said.Owens-Oas and Nasry didn’t go to high school together, but they were club soccer rivals in Oregon. They talked on the phone briefly before arriving in Claremont, but they largely only knew each other by name.Hull and Brendan Kelly PI ’13 also played high school soccer together in Utah, but they each found their own way to Coach Bill Swartz’s recruiting class.“I was just looking for a small liberal arts school,” Hull said. “I talked to Coach and he saw me play, then it all just fell into place.”On Hull’s application, Kelly said, “I didn’t know. I did it independently. I thought Pitzer was cool.”Kelly and Hull’s “bromance” is the subject of much joking at the dining table. While Kelly munches on Fruit Loops, Weissberg and Munzer dissect their relationship like two high school girls analyzing “The O.C.”“See, Brendan likes Robbie more than Robbie likes Brendan,” Weissberg begins with a giant grin. He proceeds to articulate a long, convoluted theory of how Kelly followed Hull to P-P just to continue their platonic man-friendship.The theory is largely unprintable, but what matters is the following. Six weeks ago, only a few of these guys knew each other. Now, they’re good friends with elaborate inside jokes. They also happen to be playing well together and helping the Sagehens stay on top of SCIAC. Isn’t this what college athletics is all about—winning games and making friends? Envy the class of 2013; it looks like they will get to have both.

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