CLAREMONT, Calif. - Junior William Birchard and sophomore Ethan Tyng scored second-half goals less than four minutes apart as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's soccer team defeated fourth-seeded Occidental 2-0 on Wednesday afternoon in the SCIAC Semifinals at Pritzlaff Field.
With the win, CMS improves to 13-3-2 on the year and will move on the SCIAC Championship match against second-seeded Redlands, which earned a 2-0 win over Whittier on Wednesday to advance to the finale. Occidental sees its season come to a close at 10-6-4 after coming into the postseason riding a nine-game unbeaten streak.
CMS went to the half in a 0-0 deadlock despite having several quality chances in a first half. In fact, CMS held an 8-0 edge in shots with five of the eight on net, but Scott Drazan came up with several big saves to keep the game scoreless, denying shots from deep inside the penalty area from first-year Troy Lehenbauer and Tyng, and then scrambling well off his line to block a shot from junior Daniel Rohde.
"We told each other 'it's coming'" said Birchard about the team's halftime discussions. "With the chances we created, we were on the front foot the whole time. I mean, we were peppering them, and we just knew that we're knocking on the door and we'd get in there eventually."
The second half then began with junior Nate Huntington nearly getting on the board in the first minute, but his header went just wide of the left post.
The tie was finally broken when Birchard took a free kick from 30 yards out just over 10 minutes in the second half. He struck a left-footed shot with pace that took a deflection off an Occidental defender and wrong-footed Drazan to find the net at the 55:17 mark to put CMS on the board.
Less than four minutes later, CMS was able to double its lead. Sophomore forward William Barton got the ball just outside the left edge of the penalty box and sent a low cross through the top of the 18. Tyng was able to get on the back end of it, and flicked a one-timer past the onrushing Drazan and into the net to make it a 2-0 lead.
"I think a big difference between last year and this year is how lethal we are from so many different positions," said Birchard. "It's not just one person putting away the goals; we have so many options."
After taking the 2-0 lead, the CMS defense, led by newly minted SCIAC Player of the Year Adam Singer and Kevin Proudfoot at center back, was able to hold the fort, holding Occidental to only four total shots on the day, none of which was on net. Sophomore Jacob Mays picked up his 18th career shutout without having to make a save, although he punched one dangerous cross away and slid to save an Occidental shot that was slightly off frame, covering his near post effectively on Occidental's most significant scoring chance.
The win sends CMS through to the finals, one year after the Stags played to a 0-0 draw in the semifinals against Chapman but lost on penalty kicks. CMS will be making its first appearance in the finals since 2012, when it defeated Whittier 2-0 to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The opponent this time will be Redlands, which CMS tied both times during the regular season, a 2-2 draw at home when the Stags twice came back from one-goal deficits, and a 0-0 tie at Redlands.