Men's Soccer Goes Down in Classic

Previously, during their first post season game on a Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, at Rio Hondo College, Santa Monica Corsairs Men's Soccer team made program history by making past the first round of playoffs.

From that point, the team was aiming for the ultimate goal of reaching the final four. Unfortunately, despite the tremendous effort displayed all season long, they would fall short of their goal.

The Corsairs who finished the regular season with a record of 13-3-5, took on the Cerritos Falcons, who finished with a record of 15-0-5, at Cerritos College on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

The match was tightly contested, as the Corsairs faced heavy amount of pressure from the Falcons before getting a rhythm near the end of the first leg. The Corsairs were being outshot on goal by a 5-1 count. Despite this, SMC Sophomore goalkeeper, Marek Strzelczyk, stood tall and made crucial saves to keep it a scoreless tie.

The Corsairs caught a bad break in the 55th minute of the second leg, when the Falcons broke the scoreless tie after an attempted centering pass to the middle of the box was deflected off of Ruben Soria, resulting in an own goal.

The Corsairs would start to gain momentum and generate pressure on their opponent, followed by a couple of yellow cards against the opposition.

During the 75th minute of the match, Freshman striker Cyrille Njomo received a lofted pass in the box from Sophomore midfielder Danny Hernandez on a free kick, Njomo headed the ball in the net to tie the game at 1-1.

When asked about the goal, Njomo said, "I'm a striker and a forward, and I have to do my job... I want to win, I want my team to be with me. It's not just for the goal burst, it's to take the team forward to win the game."

However, the tie game would only last for seven minutes, as the Falcons rushed up the field which enabled, Freshman forward, Christian Perez to score on a one-timer to an open view of the net after receiving a tic-tac-toe passing from his teammates. The goal proved to be the game-winner.

The Corsairs had a multiple opportunities at the other end of the field, and back to back corner kicks within the final minute, but the Falcons' defense held on to win 2-1, and ended the Corsairs' season.

The loss was a heartbreaking one for the team. According to Head Coach Tim Pierce, the though the team put in the work to come out successful, there were still some detrimental factors.

"We fought until the very end," Pierce said. "We made it a battle. That's a very very good team on the other side. We're a very good team and I think having gone down a goal we just showed some resilience, some fight, showed some character came back in it and tied the game up. Unfortunately we obviously gave one up late in the game, but we were right there with those guys and that made me very very proud and that was a positive moment."

Marek Strzelczyk made 10 saves on the 12 shots he faced. When asked about his performance, Strzelczyk said, "Well I don't look at myself, I just look at the whole team. I think we played a hell of a game, we fought until the very last whistle... We had good season altogether, so I'm proud."

Andy Naidu, one of the few Sophomores along with Strzelczyk, who has played the final game for the Corsairs, had a good game defensively and was one the most vocal on the field in this game.

"I really like to be vocal, get my team in the movement," Naidu said. "It helps me get pumped as well as I think it helps my teammates kind of be alert and be focused...I think today we came out and we really put them on their heals, I think we just got unlucky with the own goal, and Marek our goalkeeper made beautiful saves in the first half, beautiful saves in the second half...I think we came back well, made a good play, scored a beautiful goal, and we kind of just shut off for a second and they went to town on us and that's why they're nuber one."

Naidu also added one final message to his teammates before leaving as a Corsair. "It's been an incredible season, I love you guys like brothers, and I hope nothing but the best for you guys."

The SMC Men's Soccer team finished with 13 wins in the regular season, along with their first ever playoff win at Rio Hondo.

When asked about his final words with his players, Coach Pierce said, "I just said that I was proud of them. I mean sports exposes you because you don't get win every single game. I mean there's wins and losses attached to the performances, and when you lose you think 'oh man it's hard to attach positivity', but that was nothing but positive...and I'm gonna miss them, but I'm gonna be a part of their lives hopefully for a very long time."