After falling behind by a goal to the California Institute of Technology (0-16, 0-15) in the first half of senior night Oct. 24, the Chapman men’s soccer team had a massive second-half comeback leading to a 5-1 victory.
The win clinched Chapman (12-4-2, 9-4-2) a spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) playoffs, but seeding will have to wait until the final game of the season when the Panthers travel to Pomona-Pitzer (8-6-2, 7-5-2) for an 11 a.m. game Oct. 29.
Chapman opened the game with a ceremonial nod to senior defender Reed Matthews, who had a season-ending leg injury in the fourth game of the season. Matthews took the field to receive a pass off the kick-off, after which the ball was kicked out of bounds.
Senior midfielder Marco Saglimbeni, who opened the scoring for the Panthers, said it took some time for the team to re-focus its energy from senior night to the game.
“I think we kind of got caught up in the fun of senior night and kind of forgot about the game a little bit,” Saglimbeni said. “So at halftime we got a bit of a stern talking-to and then we came out the second half to do what we had to do to get the result.”
Caltech’s goal came in the 14th minute of the game and seemed to go against the run of play. Caltech sophomore defender Jack Banaszak sent in a deep cross from just barely across the 50-yard line, and the ball nicked the head of senior defender Schaeffer Reed, taking an odd bounce and fooling Chapman junior goalkeeper Sean Augustine for the goal.
Despite having 14 shots in the first half — and even causing Caltech senior goalkeeper J.D. Feist to make six saves — Chapman was unable to get on the scoreboard until the second half.
“We got off to a slow start, I’m not sure why,” said head coach Eddie Carrillo. “All the seniors were out there. They should have been pretty excited, but for whatever reason we were a little bit slow.”
As slow as the first half may have been for Chapman, the team quickly changed the game’s narrative in the second half. Less than seven minutes into the second half, freshman midfielder Justo Garcia — who started the game on the bench — crossed in a ball to Saglimbeni, who finished a bouncing ball with a firm, first-time shot in the top netting of the goal.
Saglimbeni, who is the leading scorer for the Panthers, said he’ll never forget the goal.
“It was exciting, definitely a cool thing to score on senior night,” Saglimbeni said. “And the way the game was going, we needed that goal to get us going. That’s something I’ll always remember — scoring on senior night.”
Seven minutes later, Garcia put Chapman ahead as he finished a chance that had rebounded off a Caltech defender.
“(It was) pretty exciting,” Garcia said. “I personally feel I’ve been underperforming, but that will definitely keep me on the right track. I feel like Marco (Saglimbeni) and I have a connection and those goals were very useful for my confidence.”
Chapman continued its second-half onslaught minutes later as junior defender Elliott Braund blasted a shot from roughly 30 yards out into the top left corner of the net.
Two minutes later, Garcia netted himself a brace after junior forward Grant Fremmerlid sent in a deep cross. Garcia took the ball on the second bounce, cut back against the Caltech defender and placed the shot in the bottom left corner of the net.
Garcia recognizes the opportunity to play in the playoffs as a freshman.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Garcia said. “As a freshman, it’s pretty exciting to go into the playoffs of a conference like this, so I’m excited and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.”
After Garcia’s second goal and with the game winding down, freshman midfielder Max Wilson was able to get his first goal of the season after an assist from freshman midfielder Ryan Onart, resulting in a huge celebration from the bench and players around Wilson.
With Chapman’s playoff spot secured, Saglimbeni said the team’s goals are firmly on winning the conference title.
“The one thing I’m missing as a senior is that SCIAC title,” Saglimbeni said. “So that’s all we have our eyes set on and we have to take it one game at a time, but that’s the ultimate goal.”