Jack Meeker (junior) won SCIAC Offensive Player of the Week honors this week, scoring Occidental’s lone goal in their 1–0 win over California Lutheran University Oct. 29. That win clinched Occidental’s spot in the SCIAC playoffs this season. According to Meeker, a quick decision and some luck helped him find the back of the net.
“There were a few of us standing over the ball and we were having an argument about who was going to take it, but I saw the keeper was cheating to the near post, so I just took it,” Meeker said. “The wall deflected it, and he was just on the entire wrong side of the goal.”
Meeker said the win gave the team a much-needed affirmation of the work they have put in this season.
“It was a culmination of how the season has gone,” Meeker said. “We lost four games in a row and were 1–4 in conference, so it was just a big moment because we overcame the fact that we thought we were going to come last in the conference.”
Meeker transferred this year from Southern Methodist University, where he played Division I soccer for two years. According to Meeker, Division III soccer at Occidental provides the perfect balance of academics and athletics.
“They say Division I is a job, and it’s true,” Meeker said. “You sacrifice academics and social life to play, but here you’re actually doing both. You’re actually excelling in the classroom, not just showing up.”
According to Meeker, personal awards will always come second to success on the field.
“I know some people care about personal awards. I don’t really play for them,” Meeker said. “To me, if the team wins, you won. You could get all the individual awards you want, but at the end of the day, it’s a team sport, and that’s what matters.”
After going 1–4 to begin the season, a midseason change in the team’s mindset has led to tangible results on the field, according to Meeker.
“We got beaten four straight times because we just got outworked,” Meeker said. “So, we sat down as a team and were like, ‘The only thing we can change is we have to work harder. You have to put in a tackle, and you have to run until you puke. That’s just the only option.'”
Meeker said focusing on playing with heart rather than finesse helped boost the team’s output on offense.
“We changed our whole system and just said, ‘We are going to be the hardest working team in the league,’” Meeker said. “Maybe our play is less pretty, but if you win a game, you win a game. You can score one beautiful goal or three disgusting goals. I’d rather score three.”
Meeker said the team is ready for whatever awaits them in the postseason.
“When it comes to playoffs, you never really know what’s going to happen,” Meeker said. “We’re excited to be here, but we’re not done yet. We know what we need to do.”
In addition to soccer, Meeker loves to do math and is a fan of grape Jolly Ranchers.
Anaise (Nisi) Nugent
Nisi Nugent (first year) scored twice in Occidental’s two games last week, winning SCIAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career. She leads the team with seven goals this season. According to Nugent, hecklers in the stands helped her get in the zone for her goal against Redlands University.
“I sit there, and I have the ball and place it down, and some of their fans were chanting ‘Miss, miss, miss,’ and it made me so angry,” Nugent said. “So I just slotted it right in. I’m a person who gets fired up by adversity.”
Nugent’s emergence as Occidental’s star striker was unlikely, she said, because she played center defender her entire career up to that point.
“I got recruited as a center defender. I love it, it’s my favorite position. I love defense,” Nugent said. “I just kind of started playing forward. As the season progressed, I started starting and it just kind of happened.”
According to Nugent, the biggest change in her game when she moved positions was that she became comfortable scoring consistently.
“I always used to be a person who hated scoring goals and just wanted to assist, but I’ve become very goal-hungry,” Nugent said. “I’m definitely changing my mentality, getting hungry and wanting to be in those positions.”
Nugent credited her teammates with facilitating her improvement this season. According to Nugent, her offensive breakthrough is a product of their work on the field.
“It’s honestly all the team,” Nugent said. “I think our back line does not get enough appreciation for what they do. In my 13 years of soccer, they are the greatest back line I’ve ever played with. Watching them, I’m awe-inspired.”
Nugent said that being her own biggest critic has helped her to constantly improve her game.
“I have a very competitive drive that has always pushed me, no matter what I do,” Nugent said. “I’m always the hardest person on myself. Pushing yourself to be the best you can be, that drive in myself helps me do the best I can.”
According to captain Karla Alas-Lopez (senior), Nugent is indefatigable both in practice and competition — never giving up on the play.
“She works hard in every practice and game we have,” Alas-Lopez said. “She’s very competitive; she doesn’t back down from a challenge. She’s determined to win every battle.”
In addition to soccer, Nugent is an Economics and Urban & Environmental Policy double major, enjoys spending time with friends and is passionate about the environment. She also enjoys grape Jolly Ranchers.