There was plenty to see during the men’s soccer team’s playoff-clinching win Oct. 21. The senior night game featured eight starting seniors, each with a full-sized cardboard cutout of their head, three yellow cards and a red card, a golden retriever named Harley, a backup goalkeeper who played as a forward, and a lambasted referee.
Amid the senior night proceedings, where players walked on the field with their families and were showered with cheers from alumni and friends, Chapman secured a conference playoff spot with a 1-0 win over the University of La Verne.
The celebratory mood may have undercut some of the importance of the game toward the beginning, with the first 12 and a half minutes highlighted by the first-ever offensive appearance for senior goalkeeper Matt Deemer. Deemer, who is known as “the dad” of the soccer team, was showered with cheers from the crowd including, “Give them the Deemer!”
Deemer said he didn’t know he’d be playing as a forward until right before the game, because head coach Eddie Carrillo had vetoed the idea a few days earlier. During warm-ups, Carrillo told Deemer to stop warming up in net and instead warm up with the outfield players. Deemer said he was “pretty scared” when he found out he’d be playing as a forward.
“People just expected me to score all of a sudden,” Deemer said. “Everyone was expecting some crazy thing and I’m like, ‘I’m an average goalie. I’m not going to come out here and do some crazy thing.’”
Despite the novelty of his appearance, Deemer knew he had a roughly 10-minute limit set by Carrillo. Even then, the physical toll of being an outfield player was tough to deal with, he said.
“I kept looking at the clock,” Deemer said. “I was like, ‘35 is my mark.’ I look up when I make my first run and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m tired.’ I look up and it’s 43, and I’m like, ‘I have eight more minutes of this nonsense?’ I was pretty dang tired. I had to get a heat pack, I was struggling.”
Deemer said he was appreciative of the support that he got from the crowd, especially his dog, Harley, a one year and 10-month-old golden retriever, who surprised him at the game.
“I heard a dog barking and I was like, ‘No way. I know that bark,” Deemer said. “That’s my dog.’ She had a bandana that said “Deemer, No. 19″ on it and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’”
Less than 20 minutes after Deemer left the field, controversy sparked. Head referee Vincent Brizzolara gave a red card to La Verne senior midfielder Auden Foxe for a two-footed challenge on Chapman sophomore midfielder Justo Garcia.
La Verne head coach Trevor Persson, who received a yellow card in the second half following a foul from Chapman senior midfielder Zev Gollis, said he was “disappointed” by the referee’s decisions and was concerned for his players’ safety.
“Our guy left his feet,” Persson said. “I was just hoping after that, (Brizzolara) would have been a little bit more consistent, and I had to ride him a little bit to protect our guys. I was disappointed.”
Gollis’s foul, which warranted a yellow card, came just minutes after Chapman’s lone goal, a strike from the edge of the 18-yard box by junior forward Kai Howe.
“Once I had it on the top of the box, I knew I was going to finish that,” Howe said. “I didn’t score for two games, so it felt nice to finally get back on (the scoresheet).”
Gollis hadn’t really processed the possibility of the game being his last on Chapman’s Wilson Field, he said.
“I just remember my freshman year, seeing seniors, thinking it was so far away, so it was crazy running out,” Gollis said. “You always want to look back on your senior night with a good memory, and this is probably the most memorable game I have ever played on this field.”
Deemer said Chapman’s success this season has been especially important for him and the five other seniors – Gollis, defenders Kannon Kuhn and Lorenzo Belassen, forward Niko Arellanes and goalkeeper Sean Augustine – who were suspended for three games Sept. 4 for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“Ever since we messed up pretty big, we felt like we kind of ruined our season for the whole team,” Deemer said. “Now it’s like a business thing. I told them in the locker room, ‘There are going to be a (lot) of distractions. You have to put those things behind you, and we just have to focus on winning because we’re still in a race.’”
Chapman’s next game will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at California Lutheran University.
“We just have to win, one way or another,” Carrillo said. “If we tie, it’s OK, but if we win, then we have second place clinched. We have to get it done.”