In their first ever appearance in the SCIAC post-season tournament last Thursday, the Occidental men’s soccer team ended their season with a 2-0 semifinal loss to Redlands. The Tigers finished at 13–6–1 (10–5–1 SCIAC), giving them a fourth-place finish.
The Tigers outshot the Bulldogs 20-13 and held possession for 56 percent of the match, but were unable to find the back of the net.
“I thought that we played very, very well,” co-captain Garrett Schwab (senior) said. “I’m not at all disappointed by the level of playing in the last game. I think we got really unlucky.”
Despite the final score, head coach Rod Lafaurie is proud of the team’s effort in their final game of the season.
“Numbers don’t tell the entire story in soccer, and there’s a lot of people who argue only the scoreboard matters, especially in the playoffs,” Lafaurie said via email. “Some of the bounces just didn’t fall our way on that night.”
Even though they did not end the season with a title, Lafaurie still believes the team achieved many impressive feats throughout the fall. The Tigers recorded their best finish in program history, won a pre-conference tournament in Colorado and beat every team in the conference at least once.
There were many personal achievements as well. Forward Tod Kawada (first-year) notched four goals in a single game against La Verne, three of which came in the span of 59 seconds, and co-captain Alessandro Carotenuto guided the team to a 6-4 win over Chapman at home with three goals—all on penalty kicks.
The team’s improvement from last year’s 3–16 (2–14 SCIAC) finish was not just about the numbers. According to Carotenuto, the team’s new-found chemistry played an integral role in the Tigers’ success. Schwab did not hesitate to echo his co-captain’s sentiment.
“I agree, with Sandro, the group never panicked, never once,” Schwab said. “Even when we let up three goals to La Verne and let them get back in the game there was never a sense of ‘Wow we’re going to lose this game.’ Everyone just consistently believed in each other and that we could win.”
The team still has young talent to carry them into the next season, despite losing key contributors in Carotenuto and Schwab. The Tigers are expected to return starting goalie Theo Atkinson (junior), who topped the SCIAC in goals against with only 10 in the 11 games. The team’s leading scorer Kawada and co-assist leader Santiago Bedoya-Gallego (first-year) also return with a full year of experience. Among the other notable scoring threats primed to return are forwards Morgan Bennett-Smith (sophomore) and Connor Freeman (junior).
“I hope they keep grinding next year, keep doing what we did this season,” Carotenuto said.