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CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's soccer team, seeded first after winning the SCIAC regular season title outright, will host a semifinal round contest against No. 4 seed Occidental on Wednesday night at Pritzlaff Field, beginning at 7 p.m.
The Stags won their second straight regular season title in the final week, taking a big 2-1 overtime win over Whittier on Wednesday in a battle between two teams which were tied for first heading into the contest. CMS still needed to take care of business on its home field in the finale against Caltech on Saturday in order to win the regular season title outright, which it did with a 4-0 win to finish 9-1-2 in league play.
A year ago, the Stags had a 12-2 league record, winning the regular season title outright on the final day with an overtime win at Occidental. The team's efforts for more, though, were derailed when it played to a 0-0 tie with Chapman in the SCIAC Semifinals, with the Panthers advancing on penalty kicks 5-4. CMS finished with a 15-2-1 record and still held out hope that an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament would come its way, but the Stags were left out of the postseason even with the top defense in the country (four goals allowed in 18 games).
The lingering feeling of not seeing their names come up on the screen during the NCAA selection show has stayed with the Stags for the last 12 months.
"We all feel like we were snubbed out of something really special," said junior William Birchard about not making the NCAA Tournament last year.
"Last year we got snubbed pretty bad," said senior Luke Scanlan, "so we have a taste of revenge in our mouths a little bit."
Earning that revenge will be made more challenging by an Occidental team that is coming in on an upswing. The Stags won the only regular season meeting between the teams on Sept. 21, taking a 3-1 decision at Occidental. In that contest, sophomore William Barton gave CMS a lead 4:16 into the game, before Occidental tied it midway through the second half. The Stags then used goals from senior Adam Singer and first-year Jake Allmon a minute apart to take the 3-1 win.
That game triggered a four-game losing skid for the Tigers, who found themselves in danger of not making the postseason this year at 1-4 in league play. They responded, though, by closing out the year with a 7-0-2 record in their last nine games, capped by a 1-0 win over Whittier on Saturday.
CMS has essentially been on a season-long upswing since returning from its two season-opening tournaments with a 2-2 record, featuring wins over Emory and then-No. 9 Trinity (Texas). The Stags are 10-1-2 in California, with the only loss a 1-0 overtime defeat to Chapman on an unlucky deflection in the first minute of the extra session. Both ties came against Redlands, which hosts Whittier in the other SCIAC semifinal.
Even though the first meeting between Occidental and CMS was comparatively high scoring at 3-1, one goal has the potential to make the difference on Wednesday. CMS (0.61) and Occidental (0.78) have the top two defenses in the league, while the current nucleus for the Stags, led by Singer and junior Kevin Proudfoot at center back, has allowed only 15 goals in 35 games over the last two years.
Barton (seven goals) and fellow sophomore Ethan Tyng (six goals) are the top two scoring threats to watch for CMS, after the duo combined to win the SCIAC Offensive Player of the Week honor three times this season (twice for Tyng). Occidental has been led by sophomore Adrian Paredes and first-year Joey Schwartz with five goals apiece.
The winner on Wednesday night will move on to face the Redlands-Whittier winner in the SCIAC finals on Saturday. If the Stags win, they will host the game on Saturday night at 7 p.m., while Occidental would go on the road if it knocks off CMS.
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