On a historic evening at Farquhar Field, the University of Redlands men's soccer team celebrated Senior Night with a 3-1 triumph over Chapman University. With the win, Redlands Head Coach Ralph Perez captured his 300th career victory, and the Bulldogs now sit in second place by one point in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) standings with one match remaining in the regular season.
Perez is in his 39th year coaching, with 26 coming as a collegiate men's head coach. He is currently in his 8th season at the helm of the Bulldogs. During his time at Redlands, he has led the Maroon and Gray to five SCIAC regular-season championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2007, the Bulldogs advanced all the way to the Elite 8, while in 2011, he guided the U of R to a perfect 14-0-0 record in conference play en route to a trip to the Sweet 16 in the NCAAs Championships.
On Wednesday evening, the Bulldogs started the game off on the right note, banging home a goal in the 13th minute. After freshman defender Tom Elsea (Mission Viejo, CA) kept the play alive on a corner kick for Redlands, there was a scramble in the middle of the box, and senior midfielder Will Walker (Folsom, CA) one-timed a rip into the back of the net for the game's opening goal.
The U of R made it 2-0 not long after when junior midfielder Grahame Fitz (Menlo Park, CA) received the ball behind his own half line, beat a defender and then played junior forward Charles Izydorek (Redlands, CA). Izydorek did well to go past his defender near the midline and take the ball into the attacking third for the Bulldogs. He then found junior midfielder Matej Kustura (Las Vegas, NV) with a beautiful through ball behind the Panthers' defense, and Kustura took one touch before ripping a left-footed shot past the Chapman goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
By halftime, the score remained 2-0 in favor of the Bulldogs. Chapman held the slight edge in shots, 5-4, while Redlands notched two corner kicks to none for the Panthers.
The U of R began the second half on fire, creating a number of opportunities and earning a corner kick in the 49th minute that would eventually lead to Redlands' third goal on the evening. On the play, Kustura whipped in a gorgeous cross and Elsea out-jumped the Panthers' goalkeeper and defense and headed the ball in for the third goal of his rookie campaign.
The Maroon and Gray almost made it 4-0 when Walker found freshman midfielder Austin Moore (Las Vegas, NV) with a cross to the back post, but Moore's header drifted just wide and out of play.
The Panthers (11-7-2, 9-6-1 SCIAC), however, earned a penalty kick in the 54th minute and Sam Rudich converted the opportunity, cutting into Redlands' advantage by one.
U of R senior goalkeeper Andreas Silva (San Jose, CA) came up with a big-time save not long after, sprawling out to his right to make a crucial diving stop to help maintain the two-goal advantage.
The save proved to be vital, as neither team would score again and the Bulldog defense held strong to earn the win. Senior defender Richie Marquez (Pomona, CA) led the way from the center of the defense for the Bulldogs, making numerous key tackles and clearances in the strong defensive performance.
After the match, Marquez talked about what it meant to get a big win like this on Senior Night.
With the victory, Redlands finishes the 2013 season with an unblemished record at home, winning all eight games and boasting a plus-16 goal-differential at Farquhar Field.
The U of R (11-4-0, 11-4-0 SCIAC) returns to the pitch on Saturday for its final regular-season contest of the year when it travels to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (8-10-1, 7-7-1 SCIAC). Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.
In order for the Bulldogs to clinch the regular-season SCIAC Championship, Redlands must defeat Pomona-Pitzer and then have Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges lose or tie against Whittier College on Saturday evening in Whittier. Be sure to follow all of the Bulldog action on www.goredlands.com, and check the SCIAC men's soccer schedule for listings of all other matches on Saturday.