Men’s soccer’s hopes of hosting a home playoff game this season seem to have come to a screeching halt Oct. 25. Chapman needed a win over California Lutheran University to secure the second seed in the conference and the home playoff game that comes with it.
Cal Lutheran (9-2-2 in conference) sat two points behind Chapman coming into the game, but had not lost a single home game this season.
A draw would have left Chapman (9-3-1 in-conference), now with one game left to play in the regular season, able to determine where it would be seeded. After a 2-1 loss to Cal Lutheran, that chance of self-determination is gone.
Head coach Eddie Carrillo said the team lacked energy.
“We played well for about 10 minutes,” Carrillo said. “It’s happened to us twice already. I hope that it doesn’t happen again, where it’s a big game and we don’t come out with the energy we need. Even though it feels like we had the energy level when the game started, we just didn’t have it.”
Senior midfielder Elliott Braund felt similarly about the team’s performance. Braund said that while the Panthers improved as the game went on, the team knows it is capable of better performances.
“I think we started off slow,” Braund said. “I think we didn’t match their energy at the start of the game. It was obviously their senior night, so they had a lot of energy coming into the game, and I don’t think we matched that at all.”
Chapman fell into a hole early in the game when senior defender Kannon Kuhn committed a foul inches outside of the team’s own 18-yard box in the 23rd minute. The placement of the ball on the left side of the box lined up perfectly for Cal Lutheran senior midfielder Diego Ortega. Ortega curled home a free kick in the upper right corner of the net for his conference-leading ninth goal of the season.
The 1-0 scoreline remained until the 67th minute, when Chapman senior midfielder Zev Gollis capitalized on a miscommunication between Cal Lutheran senior goalkeeper Eduardo Garcia and one of his defenders. Garcia ran into his defender and spilled the ball, leaving Gollis open to finish the chance with a first-time shot.
Less than 10 minutes later, Cal Lutheran scored what proved to be a game-winning goal on a counterattack. Junior midfielder Danny Pacheco was given free roam down the right side of the field. He squared a ball across the box to sophomore forward Joey Arnold, who volleyed the shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
“We made a bad decision in the back,” Carrillo said of the goal. “We know what we’re supposed to do, but sometimes, in the moment, they don’t. We stepped at the wrong time. It’s the mental errors, more than the physical.”
The last 10 minutes of the game were filled with chances for Chapman. The team had six shots, three of which were on target, and two of which were blocked. The closest Chapman came was a shot by Braund that bounced off the right post with less than three minutes left in the game..
Braund said he thought the shot would go in.
“Obviously, (it was heartbreaking) to see it come off the post,” he said. “I caught it nicely and put the right rotation on the ball. Sadly, it just moved a little too much and caught the post.
Carrillo said he also thought Braund had tied the game.
“It was exciting and then disappointing,” Carrillo said. “I thought it was going to go in. I think (Braund) did well to put it on target, but I don’t think it was an easy opportunity. We had some other ones that were easier than that, that we didn’t perform on. Those were more disappointing.”
Cal Lutheran’s last game is at Whittier (3-9 in-conference) Oct. 28, the eighth-place team in the conference. Cal Lutheran beat Whittier 3-0 Sept. 6, but if Whittier secures a draw, Chapman will have a chance to secure a home field advantage.
Braund said while he hopes for Whittier to secure a positive result, it’s likely Chapman will be heading back to face Cal Lutheran in the playoffs.
“It looks like we’ll be going back to Thousand Oaks next week,” Braund said. “It doesn’t really phase me. I think we’re absolutely the better team and we’ll prove that next week. We have a lot of quality, and we need to show that.”
Chapman’s final regular season game will be at 3 p.m. Oct. 28 at Pomona-Pitzer.