By Samantha Thompson
On Friday afternoon, with the largest crowd of the season on the sidelines, the UC Santa Cruz men’s soccer team honored its senior players and left it all out on the field for the last home game of the year. The Slugs defeated Chapman 2-1 in a fiercely physical overtime and made it worth it for friends and family who traveled to Santa Cruz for the game.
“I honestly think that there’s no other possible way we could have ended the season,” Coach Dan Chamberlain said. “It’s just so fitting because this is exactly how our entire season went.”
The win against Chapman became the Slugs’ fifth overtime game and fifth overtime win this season, leaving their record at a solid 10-2 in Division III and 15-4 overall.
Before the game started, the nine graduating seniors and first class Chamberlain has coached all four years, walked out on the field with their families and were honored for their tremendous efforts over the years.
“I came out with butterflies, more nervous that I’ve ever been, being my last home game at Santa Cruz,” senior Anthony Scarlett said. “It took me a while to get warmed up, but after I got hit a couple times, I realized, ‘OK, I’m playing now.’”
The Slugs kept possession for most of the game, but a quick counterattack gave Chapman a goal in the first half.
The Slugs came back hard and tied it up after freshman Evan Chambers put one in the back of the net.
Despite multiple chances to score in the second half, some rough tackles and a crowded penalty box kept UCSC from finding a way to finish.
A free kick in the second overtime period started a quick play to Scarlett and ended in the Slugs scoring the golden goal to end the game, prompting fans to rush the field in celebration.
“I was really nervous, especially in the second half and the overtimes because there was no action in our goal,” senior goalkeeper Jared Wheeler said. “But when they scored that final goal, I just dropped down to my knees and breathed one big sigh of relief.”
Because UCSC had beaten Chapman 4-0 in their last meeting, some Slugs wished that they could have taken Chapman down much quicker in this last home game of the season.
“Unfortunately [the win] had to be in overtime,” senior and captain Jeremy Abrams said. “But a win’s a win and it keeps our playoff hopes alive.”
Typically, the top six teams in the region make it to playoffs. Between UCSC’s accomplished record and their fifth-place ranking in the region, the team believes it has a strong case and is now waiting for confirmation. Seniors on the team seem especially hungry for a chance at playoffs.
“Everyone realizes this is our last chance,” Abrams said. “My freshman year we went to the national championship and lost. So I’m looking to avenge that and hopefully we’ll make it back there and come out with a different result this time.”
The Slugs are expecting to find out their playoff status on Nov. 3, and should they get in, they have to be ready to pack up immediately and play on Nov. 5.
“I’m expecting the unexpected,” Chamberlain said. “I’m prepared to go anywhere. We could be shipped anywhere in the country. And we just have to go and we have to win.”