Occidental men’s soccer made it to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) final against Chapman this season for the first time since 2018. The game against Chapman was tied 0-0 until the final minute, when a goal scored by Chapman finalized the game. Unable to come back and make up the loss, the Tigers were defeated. However, head coach Rod Lafaurie said that there is so much more to this team than a single loss, and the work they did this season was important and meaningful.
“It was a great season because we improved every day, which is the important thing for me,” Lafaurie said. “I am proud of that progress, so overall it was a success. I think we were the best team in the conference at the end and it just did not quite fall our way.”
Goalkeeper Riley Nyhan (sophomore), said the loss was undeniably frustrating and sad, but that he is also proud of the team, and they have to take it as something to learn from.
“The big thing is, especially as a goalkeeper, you got to be able to turn the page,” Nyhan said. “You can’t worry about the last mistake that you made. We have and keep building on our successes and keep working for next season.”
Captain Adrian Paredes (senior) said he has been reflecting on the highlights of the past season, as well as just appreciating his teammates. Paredes played for the team all throughout his five years at Occidental College, and he said it will definitely be difficult saying goodbye as he graduates this semester.
“I think like if there’s one moment I am going to remember it’s probably the semi-final here against Pomona,” Paredes said. “I’d say that was probably the highlight of the season was getting a play in front of our fans and winning in double overtime.”
Lafaurie also said the semi-final against Pomona was a notable moment for him and that most of all he wanted to express gratitude for all of the support the team received throughout the season.
“Thank you. We definitely lead the conference by attendance,” Lafaurie said. “So, thank you for the support of the people, all of the fans, parents and all of the students.”
For Vicente Navarro (first year), this was his first experience in a collegiate athletic setting. He said the ending to the season was very unfortunate, but he learned so much from it.
“I was able to build like a strong brotherhood with my new teammates because I had people around me who I could trust to play with,” Navarro said. “That was a big thing for our team this year, and I think that’s what made us so good. That we wanted to work for each other, and we were able to do everything for each other and leave everything on the field. And I think that’s the biggest reason why we got to the final.”
Paredes said that as a captain he put a lot of effort into creating these bonds on the team and that he also believes the team is in great hands for next season. For the coming season, Lafaurie said they are looking to build upon the work done this fall.
“I haven’t slept the past two days, I mean losses like that really do hurt, but I learned so much this year,” Lafaurie said. “We found a template of training that our guys liked, that really made them feel prepared and confident. And of course, next year’s team is going to be completely different, but I am excited to figure it out.”
Nyhan said he was also dealing with the bittersweet ending of the season.
“I think we have to be proud of what we did but also it definitely left a bad taste in our mouth,” Nyhan said. “We’re definitely frustrated and sad, but it’s just somewhere to keep working from. We’re proud of what we did, but still doesn’t mean that we’re not sad and upset with the way things ended.”
Lafaurie said the bus ride back from the championship game against Chapman was pretty silent, as all the players were feeling that loss. He said that as a coach, there is a lot of work to do, but at the end of the day, there is so much more to soccer than a simple championship.
“I think we would like to validate our progression with championships, but there is something deeper than that,” Lafaurie said. “These guys are better humans for it all and I know that the world is going to be better because of their time here in our program. And they’re going to be better fathers, husbands, leaders and businesspeople down the road. I know that for sure.”