SCIAC men’s soccer poll predicts the Tigers to take the championship

Men's Soccer
Occidental Men’s Soccer team celebrating after a goal against The Master’s College, in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 7, 2023. Nora Youngelson/The Occidental

The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) released their much-anticipated 2023 pre-season poll for men’s soccer Aug. 30 with Occidental’s men’s soccer team in first place. The high ranking predicts that the Tigers will take home a conference title in men’s soccer for the very first time.

In order to create this ranking of the nine teams in the conference, head coach Rod Lafaurie said he sat down with the eight other coaches and they each submitted their votes for the standings. According to Lafaurie, seeing the pre-season predictions and sharing them with the team was interesting, but it certainly did not change their team goals.

“Regardless of the poll we still want to win the conference tournament,” Lafaurie said. “In a way it’s sort of a validation of the work that we’ve done, but even if we were ranked seventh, it really doesn’t change much because we know we can still perform on the field.”

This year, the team is led by two senior captains — center defender Evan Karp (senior) and midfielder Joey Schwartz (senior). Both Karp and Schwartz said they share Lafaurie’s thoughts on the preseason poll.

“Obviously, being picked first is a really great accomplishment, but we haven’t really done anything yet,” Schwartz said. “We haven’t started our conference play. While it is really nice to have that recognition, we know that we have work to do. We want to be…number one [in the] postseason, not just preseason.”

Men's Soccer
Joey Schwartz (senior) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 6, 2023. Nora Youngelson/The Occidental

The team’s SCIAC play begins Sep. 13, with their conference opener against CalTech. According to Karp, in order to achieve their goals this season, the team needs to continue working together to keep their spirits high.

“I’d love to win the conference tournament,” Karp said. “Just being with a really special group of guys is so important in my final year of competitive soccer. I just want to work with them and fight with them.”

The team comes back this Fall season after last year’s conference final against Chapman — a nail-biter of a match that ended in a devastating loss for the Tigers. Schwartz said that while last year’s season was successful, ultimately, they didn’t get where they wanted to go.

“It was really tough to lose that game, but that is a part of sports,” Schwartz said. “We worked really hard for an entire season and one moment decided it, but that’s also the beauty of soccer and the beauty of sport.”

Like Schwartz, Karp said he is trying not to spend too much time on the past.

“We’re just kind of focused on where we’re at now,” Karp said. “I think we did enough to win that game. It was a good way to learn but obviously a little heartbreaking, but I think it just keeps us pushing. We’re going to try and put the past in the past. You got to focus on [right] now.”

Men's Soccer
Evan Karp (senior) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 6, 2023. Nora Youngelson/The Occidental

All-SCIAC first-team defender Lukas Howlett (senior) said he is also excited to get back on the field and contribute to the team, though right now he is focusing on recovering from a back injury. According to Howlett, the team also dealt with multiple positive COVID-19 tests early in preseason.

“About half of the team got COVID,” Howlett said. “Working with half the team is always tough because you have to be around each other in order to build chemistry. Luckily now everyone is back and ready to go.”

Men's Soccer
Lukas Howlett (senior) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 8, 2023. Nora Youngelson/The Occidental

Due to the positive COVID-19 tests, the team had to forfeit one of their first games of the season. According to Lafaurie, it was difficult to start the season off on this note, but he is focusing on growing with every game and practice.

“We were coming […] off the disjointed preseason,” Lafaurie said. “To be honest, the game against Marymount was a better performance, much closer to what we envisioned. I thought it was good, but every game is better.”

Lafaurie said the fans mean so much to the players, and he said he plans to have some surprise prizes to hand out at the upcoming games to incentivize the student section. As conference play begins and SCIAC’s pre-season poll will be put to the test, Howlett said he had one last message for the fans.

“We really appreciate you,” Howlett said. “Keep making noise, and we’ll fight to bring home a title for you all.”

Contact Nora Youngelson at


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