For seniors like me, men’s soccer has been arguably the most successful sports team at the University of Redlands. Though they haven’t won a national championship during my time here, the Bulldogs have made the NCAA tournament after winning the SCIAC title for my first three years. After their hard-earned 1-0 victory over Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday, the Bulldogs have once again defended the league championship, securing first place before their final match of the season.
In the first meeting between these two clubs this season, Redlands edged out the Sagehens 3-2, overpowering Pomona on offense (13 shots on goal to Pomona’s 5).
The offensive prowess continued into Wednesday’s match as well. In the first ten minutes, it was the Bulldogs who controlled the ball. They were able to unleash a couple of shots, but both were saved by the Pomona keeper. Redlands kept pressing on, and looked to find a way to break through. The goal the team was looking for was finally scored in a big way. Senior midfielder Sergio Valencia blasted a breathtaking strike from almost 30 yards out to bring the score to 1-0.
After the goal, the Bulldogs continued to put their foot on the gas pedal. Trying to double the lead, Redlands took multiple shots within ten minutes of their goal; all of which missed the mark or were saved by the Pomona goalie. Joey Kenney, a junior defensive back, knocked a header that went off the post, inches away from doubling the advantage. But after all the effort, the score remained 1-0 at the end of the first half.
In the first half, Pomona-Pitzer was only able to manage five shots. They performed poorer than that in the second half, garnering just three shots and three corner kicks. Though Redlands was holding onto the lead, it was a frustrating night in front of the net. By the end of the night, the Bulldogs had taken 20 shots, eight of them on goal. But the defense stayed solid for the whole 90 minutes, allowing peace of mind for the offensive unit as well as the coaching staff. The back line did an excellent job of snuffing out potential danger, and senior goalkeeper Josh Haskill made the two saves that were required of him.
When the final whistle blew, the score was still 1-0, and Redlands clinched their fourth consecutive league title. It is their fifth in the last seven years, and their ninth league championship in the 12 seasons head coach Ralph Perez has been at the helm of the program. Though it is an impressive achievement, U of R will not consider the season a success until they win the SCIAC postseason tournament, where anything can happen. After a shocking loss in the 2014 final, the Bulldogs have won the last two championship matches and look to make it a three-peat.
Redlands has one final match on Saturday, where the seniors will be honored before the game against Occidental on Senior Day. There is a lot to honor them for, as the core group of seniors (12 players) have produced unheralded success for University of Redlands’ soccer program.
photo courtesy of Redlands Sports Information from last week’s game against Whittier.