LOS ANGELES — It didn't matter that the SCIAC playoffs were out of the question. The Occidental College men's soccer team's seniors still had plenty to play for in the last home match of their careers.
Reid Sakamoto (Honolulu), Ben Murray (Sandpoint, Idaho) and Daniel Watson (San Francisco) all scored goals, Ben Grime (Batesburg-Leesville, S.C.) had a pair of assists, Jeffrey Najjar (Santa Fe, N.M.) played 82 minutes of solid defense and the Tigers picked up a 4-0 win over La Verne on Wednesday in Oxy's final match of the season at Jack Kemp Stadium.
They lit up the net and then, one by one, received standing ovations as they checked out of the game with the final minutes ticking off the clock and the match well in hand.
Sakamoto, a three-time All-SCIAC player who's been the face of the program for the past four years, scored Oxy's last two goals and was the final senior to leave Patterson Field.
"It feels awesome. There's no better feeling than playing collegiate sports and having it culminate like this," said Sakamoto, who finished a pass from Jack Day (London, England) in the 67th minute and calmly dribbled around La Verne (7-10-2, 5-9-1 SCIAC) goalkeeper Richard Duran for his second score in the 77th. "We had some younger players involved tonight which is a nice way to kind of pass the torch.
"That was a great win and a great way to end things. I'm so proud of the seniors."
It's a bittersweet feeling for Sakamoto and the seniors knowing they can't make the four-team SCIAC playoff tournament. But the Tigers (7-8, 8-8 SCIAC) can become the first team in the past 10 years to finish with a winning overall record by beating Chapman in their season finale on Saturday in Orange at 11 a.m.
"We, as seniors, want to set the tone for the rest of the history of this program," Sakamoto said. "Although playoffs were the goal, a winning record would be the starting block. … And I'm confident the program will go from there."
Watson started the scoring on a set piece from Alexander Duvoisin (La Canada) in the 10th minute. Duvoisin played a ball to the back post that Grime flicked to Watson. Watson collected it and placed a right-footed shot in the back of the net, giving Oxy a 1-0 lead.
In the 23rd minute, Murray was the last to touch a pretty combination play in transition that went form Watson to Grime to Christian Buchmann (Singapore) and finally Murray with none of the players taking more than two touches.
Murray, Watson and Sakamoto are all now tied for the team goals lead with four, and each have a total of 10 points. Day now leads the Tigers with 11 points.
In the 60th minute, David Gonzalez had the Leopards' best chance of the game, but Oxy goalkeeper Ian Agrimis (Portland, Ore.) made a fully-extended, diving save to preserve his second shutout of the season.