Photo: Noelle Davis
CLAREMONT, Calif. (Oct. 15, 2019) – A pair of key performances on both the offensive and defensive end led to the Caltech men's soccer team scoring its first SCIAC win of the season at Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday afternoon.
Senior forward Kevin Yu (Park Ridge, N.J. / Park Ridge) broke out with his strongest showing of the season on the road. Yu had four of his team's eight shots on goal, which allowed the Beavers to match the Sagehens from a chance creation standpoint. The first goal came on a chest pass outside the box from sophomore midfielder Samir Johnson (Portland, Ore. / Jesuit) which Yu successfully volleyed in from the top of the box to give Caltech a lead just before going to halftime. Pomona-Pitzer came back strong over the final five minutes of the half, but a key save at the horn from sophomore goalkeeper Max Popken (Westport, Conn. / Staples), who was making just the second start of his career, allowed the visitors to retain the lead going into the second period.
The Beavers defended well for the next 45 minutes in front of Popken, as just three of home team's eight shots on goal came in the second half. Popken additionally did well with organizing the players in front of him, limiting the quality of the Sagehens' opportunities in the final 45 minutes. Yu's insurance goal came on a breakaway from senior midfielder Theo Yang (Columbia, Md. / Long Reach) down the right wing. Yang stole the ball in his own zone and had nothing but green grass in front of him, running it all the way to the opposing team's box in a three-on-one situation. With Yu, along with Chad Thut (Dover, N.H. / Berwick Acad.) staggered in the box as scoring options, Yang chose Yu on the far side to hammer home the finishing blow in the 88th minute.
Popken finished the game with eight saves and a clean sheet. The newcomer's play has provided a defensive spark for the Beavers, as he now has 16 saves over two career starts to go along with a rock solid .889 save percentage. Yu, meanwhile bagged the first two goals of his senior season following a slow start that saw him return to the team for the conference schedule.
"I came away really impressed with how we managed the game and were able to get the result," Head Coach Phil Murray said. "We had some great chances and had a really strong defensive shape, getting a clean sheet away from home. I thought we deserved the victory but credit to Pomona-Pitzer for a well fought match."
Murray and the Beavers will look to harness their newfound momentum into another SCIAC victory when they host the University of Redlands on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11 a.m.