Author: Joe Siegal
Tigers set their sights on qualifying for playoffs with newfound team coherence
Coming off last year’s 5-13 season (5-9 SCIAC), the Occidental men’s soccer team has its sights set on bigger and better things in 2012-2013. Through the first six games, the Tigers are 4-2 (3-2 SCIAC). This includes one of the biggest wins in program history, a 2-1 victory over two-time defending SCIAC champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) on Sept. 15.
The Tigers harnessed a strong defense and two moments of offensive creativity in order to dispatch CMS. Alessandro Carotenuto (sophomore) set the tone for the Tigers, receiving a cross from Jack Day (junior) and drilling home a shot from the top of the 18 yard box. Carotenuto believes this goal helped establish Occidental’s rhythm.
“It was important that we were the first ones to set the pace, and to really make them step up to our level, instead of waiting for them to set the pace,” Carotenuto said. This early goal helped pave the way for the important victory, Occidental’s first conference win of the season.
“Beating [Claremont] shows we can beat any team in the league,” Daniel Watson (senior) said. Watson’s goal, which was the favorable outcome of a 33rd minute free kick, finalized Occidental’s lead against the nationally ranked CMS Stags, breaking a 1-1 tie. Watson, who had entered the game as a substitute, took a kick that caromed off the head of a CMS defender on the wall and found its way past the goalkeeper.
“Sometimes you need a little bit of luck,” Watson said. ”I’m glad I got that lucky bounce and was able to bring my team back into the game.”
Coach Radames “Rod” Lafaurie, in his third season as head coach, does not think luck had much to do with the win. He believes the team’s adherence to the game plan will be the determining factor of their success. According to Lafaurie, this year’s team has the potential to eclipse last year’s, as long as they can stay consistent.
“This year, some of the fruits of our labor should show,” Lafaurie said. Starting with a preseason camp of 43 players, Lafaurie narrowed the team down to its current size of 34, cutting some returning players in order to accommodate his 10-player freshman recruiting class. Lafaurie identified making these cuts as the hardest part of his season, but is excited by the prospects of the incoming class.
“The freshmen seem to have the attitude we’re looking for,” he said, adding that the returning players have been “showing the freshmen the way.” Yet, despite a drastic change in the roster, each team member has his mind set on a common goal.
“Our team motto for this year is ‘make the playoffs,'” John Tillapaugh (sophomore) said. “That’s something that a soccer team at Occidental has never done, and we feel like we’re in a position this year to do it.”
The top four teams in the SCIAC conference will secure playoff berths. But even though the team has established an attainable target, they must face other challenges, namely maintaining a positive outlook despite a grueling game schedule.
“We have so many games close together, so maintaining health and good morale and keeping the team moving forward with the obstacles we face will be the biggest challenge,” Lafaurie said. However, after the win against CMS, the Tigers lost a 2-1 game at Whittier on Sept. 19, showing that there is still work to be done if the team is to make the SCIAC playoffs.
“We, as a team, deviated a little bit from what’s made us successful,” Coach Lafaurie said. “Maintaining the ball and controlling the tempo of the game and making it our game has been our success…we didn’t do that at all.” Lafaurie stressed that his players need to stick to their game plans in order to show consistent winning form.
The players’ outlook remained optimistic even after this tough loss.
“Going forward, I think we understand that it was one game. We can look past it. We’re going to see them at home. We’re going to beat them next time,” Tillapaugh said.
The Tigers rebounded with consecutive shutout victories against Caltech on Saturday and Cal Lutheran on Monday.
The pervading confidence that results from winning three out of the last four drives the Tigers as they attempt to become a stronger force in the conference.
“We want to have the reputation and the name that when people come and play us, they know that they’re going to have a tough task at hand,” Carotenuto said.
Time will tell if the aspirations of the team will materialize, leading to a playoff spot. But if the early returns are any indication, Occidental soccer could be well on its way.
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.