After finding itself unable to defeat the University of La Verne Leopards in its last three matches against them, the Chapman men’s soccer team defeated La Verne 2-0 Nov. 3, securing a spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) finals.
La Verne was the team that defeated Chapman in its first-ever home playoff game last season in a 1-0 loss in the SCIAC semifinals. Earlier this season, Chapman drew a 3-3 tie and lost 1-0 to the Leopards on Sept. 7 and Oct. 15, respectively.
Head coach Eddie Carrillo said going into the game that there was added motivation for Chapman in facing La Verne (14-5-1, 11-4-1) again.
“Absolutely, they’ve had our number the last three games, in the playoffs last year and then the tie at the beginning of the year and the home game,” Carrillo said. “They’ve beaten us twice at home. We’re kind of, in a way, glad to play them. You always want to try to get the monkey off our back and what better way to get to the finals than to get past them.”
Chapman (14-5-2, 11-5-2) opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a well-struck free kick from junior midfielder Elliott Braund. Braund lined up the free kick from about 35 yards out and put the ball off the underside of the crossbar, giving La Verne sophomore goalkeeper Josh Ramirez no chance to save the shot.
Chapman would not score again until the second half, but in the 41st minute, La Verne junior midfielder Auden Foxe gifted the Panthers a man advantage, getting a red card after he appeared to hit Chapman junior defender Kannon Kuhn in the face while the two were on the ground.
In the 65th minute, Braund was also sent off after appearing to shove a La Verne player. He was shown a second yellow card after receiving an earlier yellow card for dissent.
“It was just pure heart and hard work to hold them off when we went down to 10 men,” said senior midfielder Jake Sarmiento. “We didn’t drop our intensity at all, but it did take a few minutes for us to get control of the game again.”
Despite losing Braund, Chapman responded strongly, with senior midfielder Marco Saglimbeni and Sarmiento connecting for a goal in the 73rd minute. Saglimbeni found himself with plenty of space near the corner flag and crossed in a ball toward the near post, where Sarmiento headed home a goal that proved to give Chapman an insurmountable lead.
“It felt amazing to score that header,” Sarmiento said. “That play could not have gone any better. Marco worked to get to that ball I played him before it got to the end line, and I sprinted into the box, and was unmarked and was able to put it into the back of the net. It was such a huge rush of adrenaline.”
Carrillo said before the game that he wanted the team to play with a high tempo.
“We’re just trying to do things better than we did last year because last year didn’t work for us,” Carrillo said. “Just kind of making sure the guys know that when we played them the last time here, we needed to pick up the tempo a little bit and make sure that they saw it. They watched video on it, because sometimes you can tell them and they don’t know until they actually see it. But once they see it, they know that we’ve got to play a little faster tempo.”
With the win, Chapman is now heading to its first conference final since 2013, when the Panthers lost 1-0 to California Lutheran University.
Carrillo’s expectations were clear going into the game.
“I expect us to win,” Carrillo said. “I say that every single time. I think we’re good enough to win. I would be disappointed if we don’t win because we’ve got everything we need — all the tools — everything is in place to do it. We just need to show up and do what we’ve got to do.”
For the conference championship this Saturday at 7 p.m., Chapman will be heading to the University of Redlands (16-5, 13-4), who finished the season in first place. At the teams’ last matchup Oct. 22, Chapman defeated Redlands 2-1.