Coming into Saturday’s regular season finale against La Verne, the members of the Occidental men’s soccer team (13–5–1 overall; 10–5–1 SCIAC) knew that—for the first time in the history of the program—the senior game would not be their last meaningful match. Instead, they will continue into the postseason after clinching a SCIAC playoff spot last week in a 3-1 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The squad continued their inspired play with a 5-0 landslide win against La Verne on Saturday, while also honoring their four graduating seniors: goalie Ian Agrimis*, defender Alessandro Carotenuto, midfielder Tyler Eng and defender Garret Schwab.
“I never thought I’d make it to the playoffs,” Carotenuto (senior) said.
According to Carotenuto, the team has developed a much stronger bond than in his previous three seasons as a Tiger. This brotherhood helped spark the collective effort to win this season.
“It used to be more of a caste system; the seniors would not talk to the [first-years],” Carotenuto said. “I think it’s because of the efforts of the upperclassmen to create this bonding that has helped change this team.”
Last season the team went 3-16; this year they sit in fourth place in the SCIAC standings with a 13-5-1 record and championship hopes.
“[The seniors] have been through a lot … when I look at them when we win a game there is this look of thankfulness and shock,” assistant coach Joshua Ault said. “The power of belief that this group has is unbelievable … When we are all a family there’s no team out there that’s better.”
Before the season started, head coach Rod Lafaurie put together a 14-page pamphlet that outlined how the soccer program would function and thrive.
“It’s fun to finally see the vision coming true,” Lafaurie said via email. “Our men are going to get along, and make the whole greater than the sum of the parts …We are aiming to create the best place to play in college soccer.”
The final regular season game, played in front of a packed crowd, was just one more example of the team’s new attitude.
The Tigers dismantled La Verne with a flurry of goals. Midfielder Santiago Bedoya-Gallego (first-year) started off the Tigers’ offensive attack with a penalty kick goal in the 18th minute. Tod Kawada (first-year) added goal number two to the scoreboard with an assist from Carotuneto in the 29th minute.
As the seniors came off the field to cheers throughout the second half, Occidental’s attack refused to let up.
The second half began with forward Zack Conrad (junior) striking the ball outside the box for a goal in the 55th minute. Midfielder Daniel Lawson (junior) got involved in the action with a header for a goal seven minutes later. Finally, midfielder Brooks Yeager (first-year) capped off the scoring after dribbling around multiple defenders and then blasting the ball in the back of the net in the 75th minute.
With players from each year scoring or assisting a goal, the team demonstrated how they work together as one unit.
“We know that our family is strong, and because everyone is pulling in the same direction, we feel like we can do anything, we feel like no one can stop us,” Lafaurie said via email.
The Tigers take on Redlands away Thursday at 7 p.m. in the SCIAC semifinals. If they win, they play on Saturday against the winner of the contest between Pomona-Pitzer and Chapman.
*Agrimis is a staff member for The Weekly