REDLANDS, Calif. – The Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Postseason Tournament semifinal ended in heartbreak on Thursday night for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's soccer program, as the University of Redlands came on top with a 2-0 victory. After giving up two goals in the first half, the Stags regained their focus and showed more aggression on offense, outshooting the Bulldogs 9 to 4, but their efforts fell short against a tough Bulldogs defense and their goalie John Melito, who worked for six saves and three blocks. In his final game as a Stag, senior Mehron Abdi (CMC) led the team with four shots, two of which were on target. Senior Michael Crowley (CMC) and freshman Isaiah Alba (CMC) both had two shots with one on target, while junior goalie Daniel Cui (CMC) had two blocks and a save.
The Stags looked ready out of the gate and nearly got the opening goal when Alba dribbled down the wing and delivered a pass to senior Alex Censullo (CMC) who was racing into the box. Censullo slid and tried to deliver a sweeping kick on the ball, but his shot went right of the post.
The Bulldogs jumped on board in the 20th minute when Chase Boone placed a cross into the box towards the leaping Jesus Avalos. Avalos placed a header towards Casey ChubbFertal, who connected with a soft header over the leaping Cui and into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Redlands continued to maintain their momentum, controlling possession on the offensive side of the pitch, while the Stags struggled to complete the final pass on the counter. The Bulldogs added another goal to their tally in the 44th minute when the CMS defense misplayed a pass and headed the ball into their own net.
During halftime, Head Coach Matt Edwards refused to let the team be discouraged by the scoreboard, and rallied the team's spirit to give an explosive second half. In the 52nd minute, the team thought to have followed through on the rally cry when freshman Patrick Burke (CMC) took advantage of a blocked cross off the Melito's glove and shot the ball into the net. Unfortunately, Burke was called offside, putting a quick end to the team's celebration.
The Stags had quite the scare in the 63rd minute when Alexander Knox drilled a rocket towards the net, but his effort went off the post. Cameron Doody read the bounce and tried his shot at goal, but Cui came in clutch with a timely block to keep the game within distance.
Alba nearly cut the game in half in the 68th minute when the freshman found Burke racing to the box and whipped a hard low shot towards the net, hoping for the ball to find the net or least Burke's foot. However, the keeper lunged in front of the ball for timely save. Several minutes late, freshman Adam Singer (CMC) launched a long throw-in towards the Bulldogs' box at Burke's head, but the pass barely grazed the jumping freshman and was cleared away.
CMS continued to push the ball forward, and in the 79th minute, Singer found Crowley with a cross. The senior was wide open and connected on a header, but his attempt came straight towards the keeper. With the clock ticking down, the Stags thought to have found a glimmer of hope in the 85th minute when Abdi managed to fool his defenders with a fake pass and blasted a laser from the edge of the box. The ball bounced off Melito's glove, but didn't fall into the net.
The Stags close the season 11-7-1 overall and 9-6-1 in conference play, finishing in fourth in the SCIAC standings and returning to the SCIAC Postseason tournament. This was a significant improvement from last season when they finished in sixth place in the SCIAC with an overall record of 6-8-4. In spite of the fact the team will see nine talented seniors graduate from the program, there is strong optimism of what the Stags can accomplish next season.
"Championship games are like climbing a mountain," Coach Edwards told the team in a postgame huddle. "The higher you climb, the harder it is to breathe. Let's learn to breathe."
By Young Kim
Sports Information Assistant