The men’s soccer team went the distance against the Caltech Beavers, only to draw in a scoreless tie in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match Wednesday at Ortmayer Stadium.
The draw gives the Leopards a 9-7-1 overall record, and a 4-5-1 SCIAC record, good for fifth place in conference.
It was a game that the Leopards needed to win in order to advance into the postseason, they unfortunately could not deliver Wednesday night.
“We played lethargic, we lacked energy, lacked purpose, lacked drive,” said head coach Trevor Persson on the team’s performance. “It just seemed like we were a little sluggish at times.”
The first half opened up with the Leopards on the attack. Junior forward Jovanni Garcia forced himself into striking distance inside the first 30 seconds, but could not put his shot away as sophomore goalkeeper Max Popken was ready for it.
The rest of the first half played out nearly the same way with each possession. Both teams would build their attacks slowly from the back line and try to send a through pass from deep. Both team’s midfielders would intercept and disrupt the attacks before trying to create an attack in the opposite direction.
Late in the first half, Persson made a few key substitutions and tactic changes that really helped the Leopards shift the momentum on their side for the remainder of regulation.
One of the big beneficiaries of the tactics change were the defense who held off Caltech’s attack throughout the second half, not allowing the Beavers to get even one shot on goal.
“They would play forward and retract back, we would cover the runs,” said sophomore goalkeeper Kevan Rehmani. “It was like any other game we’ve played, but this time we were able to dial it in a little bit more from last game, learning from our mistakes.”
Despite the stellar play from the Leopards throughout the match, they just couldn’t find the back of the net. They took 22 shots, with 10 on goal, but could not find the crucial game winning goal they needed.
“We were doing everything right,” said junior forward Johnny DeRueda. “They were defending like they should have, I thought we were beating them, but we couldn’t finish in the final third.”
The Leopards had multiple chances in front of the goal, including a blast from junior midfielder Daniel Ortega that deflected off the crossbar. An inch lower and the game would have had a different result.
Garcia, who leads SCIAC in shots, points and goals, also struggled to find the net. He had seven shots, with two on goal.
“I feel like we were just off a bit,” said Garcia. “We had some good chances where we could have scored, but it just didn’t happen. They’re defense was good, but I felt like we could have won the game.”
The match went through two overtime periods with neither side conceding a goal.
The Leopards look to keep their postseason hopes alive with a match against UC Santa Cruz at 4 p.m. Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Christopher Livingston can be reached at email@example.com.