Eagles limp to the finish line

Men’s soccer drops last two games of the season and squander decent GSAC Tournament seeding.

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Jacob Knopf/ THE CHIMES

Jacob Knopf/ THE CHIMES

Jacob Knopf/ THE CHIMES

Kyle Kohner, Writer

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As players slipped and slid on the wet and miserable field in Northern California, the Eagles’ hopes of playing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championships slipped as well. Two losses on the road to the Menlo College Oaks and the William Jessup University Warriors, in which the Eagles both dominated and led early on, have men’s soccer grasping for their dwindling playoff hopes with the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament near.

Storming through the gates

The Eagles came storming through the gates in Atherton, Calif. on Oct. 27 against the Menlo Oaks. Biola played 44 minutes and 50 seconds of perfect soccer in the first half, but the other 10 seconds proved detrimental for the Eagles as they gave up two quick goals.

Biola’s offense provided struggles for the Oaks throughout the first half, as Menlo had four shots on goal through the first 30 minutes. One of those found the Oaks’ open net, as junior defender and recently announced member of the 2016 All-GSAC team Sammy McKay crossed a beautiful ball, which found the head of junior midfielder Jarrett Pugh, his fourth goal of the year.

However, the Oaks, with their backs against the wall, took the lead from right under the Eagles and scored two quick goals. The Oaks used their surprising lead as momentum for most of the second half, as they consistently pressured the Eagles’ junior goalkeeper Igor Puglia and the stingy, vaunted backline.

A futile attempt

The Eagles fought back ferociously and tied the score late in the game. Unfortunately, all of Biola’s hard work near the end proved futile as they relinquished a golden goal barely a minute into overtime.

After a disheartening loss at the hands of the Oaks, Biola found themselves playing their last regular season game with the chance to maintain a decent seeding for the upcoming GSAC tournament if they won. Unfortunately, the Eagles dropped the Oct. 29 match against the Warriors 3-2 after leading 2-0 going into the second half.

Senior forward and 2016 All-GSAC member Leonardo Contreras and the hot shooting Pugh seemingly put the game out of  reach. In the first half, the Eagles played justifiably angrily, which constituted dominant play all around.

Going into the second half with a 2-0 lead, little did Biola know that the Warriors still had fight in them. The Eagles had a nightmare performance in the second half as they let William Jessup tally off three unanswered scores, including the game-winner with two minutes remaining.

The end of the season did not sway in favor of the Eagles — in fact it shockingly disappointed, especially for the defense. After giving up an astonishing five goals in the first 13 games of the season, the usually dangerous backline became a liability in the last two games as they gave up six total goals.

“Our collective and individual defense was not as sharp, potentially contributed to our surprise in recent offensive proficiency,” said junior midfielder and defender Riley Waldeck. “Regardless of the cause, we are all working to return to the necessity of absolute defensive commitment that we possessed at the beginning of the season.”

A clean slate

Despite the two losses to end the season, a new season arrives: the postseason, a clean slate for an Eagles team who has yet to put together a stretch of great defense and great offense. If they can do that, other teams should be worried.

“We are still rallying as a team despite the recent disappointment,” Waldeck said. “We are encouraged by the fact that we are yet to play to our entire potential, with both offensive production and defensive commitment occurring throughout the entirety of a single game.”

As the uncharacteristic defensive play presents itself as a worry going into the tournament, the No. 6 seed Biola Eagles now have to take on the Vanguard Lions, who obtained the third seed for the tournament. The game is at Vanguard on Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.

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Eagles limp to the finish line