The P-P men’s soccer team dealt CMS an authoritative 2-0 defeat over fall break to hang onto the Golden Boot, which is given annually to the winner of the Sagehen-Stag season series. The win, coupled with a 1-0 victory over Occidental on Oct. 21, brings P-P to a 9-1 record in SCIAC (11-3 overall) and solidified their top spot in the league standings. Redlands (7-3-1) and Whittier (6-2-2) trail by five and seven points respectively. Further adding to their accolades, the win also helped the Sagehens move up another spot in the NCAA coaches’ poll of the Western Regional rankings to #7, up from #8 in last week’s poll.
James Yong PI ’10 provided the winning goal for the Sagehens in the 37th minute. The exchange student from Australia, widely described as a Jack Sparrow look-alike, diced up four Stag defenders and beat the keeper to the far post.
It was only Yong’s second goal of the season, but it couldn’t have come at a more important juncture. P-P was faltering under the Stags’ attack, and Yong’s goal reversed the tide of the game.Zach Burke PO ’10 added the insurance with six minutes left in regulation. Alec Larson PO ’11 played a ball over the top of the CMS back line and Burke, playing striker, ran onto it. He physically dominated an unfortunate Stag defender and then calmly tucked the ball past the CMS keeper. The entire play really showcased Burke’s strength, an attribute he learned to utilize partly by playing Mario Kart.
“I always play as DK,” Burke said, referring to the infamous Donkey Kong. Fans of Mario Kart know DK as the biggest, fastest, and brashest racer in the game (well, aside from Bowser, but he’s just impractical). As it turns out, Burke really identifies with DK and styles his soccer game after the Nintendo character. If you think about it, it makes sense.
They’re both imposing presences in their respective realms—just as miniscule Mario doesn’t trifle with the big ape on the racetrack, no defender in their right mind wants to try to win a ball from the 6 feet 4 inches bearded giant leading the Sagehen attack. They both build their game around strength—watching Burke effortlessly shed the last CMC defender was like watching DK bowl over the Princess in the final lap of Wario Stadium.
And they both require a lot of finesse to stay under control—Burke plays all-out, all the time, and sometimes his momentum gets the best of an opposing player in a challenge. To his credit, though, Burke has no yellow cards this season because he has learned to control that power, much as a veteran Karter has learned how to handle DK.
All ridiculous comparisons aside, the CMS game was a huge win for the Sagehens. By defeating the Stags 2-0 at their field, P-P retained ownership of the Golden Boot (a trophy awarded annually to the winner of the P-P/CMS series) for another year. Since the home leg of the CMS series ended in a 1-0 loss, the Sagehens needed a victory to hold on – and they got one. The game also cemented P-P’s lead atop SCIAC. After a 1-0 victory over Occidental on Wednesday in which Burke netted the game-winning goal, the Sagehens now have 27 points. The second-place team and perpetual nemesis Redlands has just 22 points, so P-P only has to beat two more teams to clinch a league win.
Being number one in SCIAC means there’s a crown on your head and a target on your back. The Sagehens know this; they also know that with an estimated 75 percent of their lineup decimated by flu, injury, and other slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, each game is becoming more important. The Sagehens will end their regular season against the top teams in league, with matches against La Verne, Whittier, Redlands, and Cal Lutheran. The team figures to be jostling for seeding in the postseason SCIAC tournament, so each game is an important one.
The next important game is at home on Saturday against La Verne. Be there at 11:00 a.m., sports fans.
This article drew on game reports from CMC as well as from P-P parent Phil Halpern, who maintains an excellent fan site with high-quality game photos and extensive stats. Check it out at