Men’s soccer season ends with loss in second round of NCAA championship

Junior defender Lorenzo Belassen slides in for a tackle against Trinity sophomore forward Austin Michaelis. Photo courtesy of Trinity University

Junior defender Lorenzo Belassen slides in for a tackle against Trinity sophomore forward Austin Michaelis. Photo courtesy of Trinity University

The Chapman men’s soccer team’s postseason came to an end Nov. 13, as it lost 2-0 to Trinity University (Texas) in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship.

The Panthers won their game 1-0 on the previous day against the University of Texas at Dallas to advance to the second round of the NCAA championship for the first time since 1998, but were unable to score a goal against the No. 3 ranked team in the country in San Antonio, Texas.

Junior midfielder Elliott Braund said ahead of the game that the team was aware of Trinity’s ability.

“I think tomorrow will be a great game. They’ve had a good season so far and we know they’re a good team,” Braund said. “But, when we play our soccer the way we know we can, I think we’re a very tough team to beat.”

Junior midfielder Sam Rudich battles for a header against a Trinity player. Photo courtesy of Trinity University

Junior midfielder Sam Rudich battles for a header against a Trinity player. Photo courtesy of Trinity University

Chapman (15-6-2, 10-4-2) and Trinity (22-1, 13-1) exchanged chances in the first half, though Trinity was able to put seven chances on target, while Chapman only had three. The Panthers had to rely on junior goalkeeper Sean Augustine to keep the score level, saving three crucial shots.

In the eighth minute, Augustine saved a sure goal from a Trinity free kick with a diving save. In the 29th minute, Trinity had a chance from about 6 yards out, which Augustine tipped over the bar. With less than three minutes to go in the first half, he tipped a dangerous ball over the bar after it was flicked on by a Trinity player. Augustine made nine saves in the game.

After Chapman’s win against UT Dallas, Braund, who scored Chapman’s only goal on Saturday, said Augustine’s play was crucial to Chapman’s success.

“We have so much trust in him. He’s come up big for us in big games this season and this was just another example,” Braund said. “It’s so much greater being able to play with the confidence of having a keeper like Sean behind you.”

Despite Augustine’s first-half heroics, Chapman found itself in a hole early in the second half. Trinity junior forward Daniel Ruano scored from a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and curled it past Augustine, who was only able to get fingertips to the shot.

Chapman was able to generate a few chances in the second half, but wasted a number of free kick opportunities. One of Chapman’s best opportunities came in the 64th minute, when senior midfielder Sam Rudich worked his way down to Trinity’s 18-yard box and took a shot toward the left side of the net that was saved by Trinity’s 6’9” senior goalkeeper Todd Whittaker.

Any chance Chapman had of recovering in the game was essentially over when sophomore forward Austin Michaelis scored past Augustine into the bottom right corner of the net with less than 13 minutes to go.

Chapman would get two more solid chances, however. Freshman midfielder Justo Garcia’s chip attempt was saved by Whittaker with 10 minutes to go and senior midfielder Daniel Malikyar’s free kick attempt went over the bar with less than four minutes to go.

Senior midfielder Jake Sarmiento said ahead of the tournament that he was proud of the team regardless of how it progressed.

“As a whole, I’m very proud of this team and what we accomplished this season,” Sarmiento said. “It may not have turned out the way we wanted in the (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) final, but we still made it to the NCAA tournament, something none of us have experienced yet.”

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