Author: Rebecca Verstraete
After a roller-coaster season thus far, Occidental’s men’s soccer team has bonded over the triumphs and letdowns they have experienced. With a full roster of 24 players, the Tigers are more than just a sports team; they are a close-knit family with the same ambition and dedication. Despite the losses the team sustained this season, the squad’s closeness on and off the field has led to drastic improvement in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) league play.
The team’s current conference record of 5-4-2 marks a positive shift from last year’s disappointing 3-10-1 final record. The Tigers’ overall improvement is keeping their spirits high in spite of a recent letdown.
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, the team lost to Pomona-Pitzer on Patterson field. Though the loss was difficult in itself, it was especially bitter because of the age-old rivalry between the Tigers and the Sagehens.
Although the team’s conference record is far from perfect, they are still excited about the current season and all the positive changes it has brought to the team. One major change in the team dynamic this year is the introduction of a new coaching staff. Head Coach Rob Lafaurie and Assistant Coaches Allofs Lima and Ryan Poliseno have greatly impacted team chemistry and the Tigers’ overall attitude towards the game.
“[The coaches] have made the [soccer program] their number one priority, and it is very clear that they have done a great job in preparing us to be a winning team,” CJ Grigoriadis (senior) said.
Grigoriadis has been a member of the soccer team for the past four years and sees the positive impact the coaches’ dedication has had on the team’s morale. Because the coaches believe in what the players can accomplish, the Tigers are more optimistic this season about their chances of winning a SCIAC championship.
The coaching staff is just as determined to win as the players. Despite the recent losses, the coaches are optimistic and remain proud of what the team has accomplished so far this season. Coach Lafaurie, who played Division I soccer at California State University, Northridge, attributes the team’s success to the players’ effort and dedication.
“The guys have an incredible focus. It has just come down to them deciding on how successful they want to be,” Lafaurie said. As the first round of SCIAC play comes to an end, the Oxy men’s soccer team is beginning to work towards making necessary adjustments to secure a spot in League Playoffs this season.
“We have been working harder then we ever have to secure a spot in the playoffs,” Ben Murray (sophomore) said.
“It takes a great deal of mental and physical determination and effort to perform well in every game and I think that every single player on the team is willing to give 100 percent.”
During the second half of the season, the team plans to focus on the offensive third of the field. “We have to improve our offensive chances, whether that means scoring more goals or getting more crosses off,” Lafaurie said.
The team seems to be heading in the right direction for success, taking each match one game at a time. The effort, determination and overall passion of the men’s soccer team is unmistakably present during all of their competitions. Much of the enthusiasm the Tigers exhibit on the field is a result of their strong team bond.
Grigoriadis, who will graduate at the end of this year, considers the men’s soccer team family. “This season means a lot to me, as it will most likely be my last season with a competitive team,” he said. “Also, because of the group of guys we have this year, I feel that our team chemistry has been stronger than ever. As we continue to tell each other, we are a family on and off the field.”
Like coach Lafaurie and the other members of the coaching staff, Grigoriadis believes wholeheartedly in his and his teammates’ abilities. “I would love to see this specific team make it to the playoffs and make history for the Oxy men’s soccer program,” he said.
As the season draws to a close, it will be exciting to see whether the team manages to meet its high expectations.
The Tigers’ next game is on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Whittier College.
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