Cal Lutheran’s Kingsmen and Regals soccer teams shine in SCIAC

Marcel Hurtubise, Reporter


The men’s and women’s soccer teams finished their seasons with the Kingsmen setting program history and the Regals receiving Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference offensive and defensive players of the year.

The men’s team made the semifinals of the SCIAC tournament for two years back-to-back for the first time ever. The Kingsmen beat Redlands’ Bulldogs in a dramatic penalty shootout to make the final four, then ended their season with a 1-0 loss to the Chapman Panthers. The game against Redlands was the Kingsmen’s first-ever home game in a SCIAC tournament. 

“We had a good year. Every year when we start our season, our goal is always to get into the tournament,” Men’s Head Soccer Coach Miguel Ruiz said. “I think that the success of the players and what they worked, all their hard work, put them at the end of playoffs…so definitely exciting.”

Senior defender Tyler Sherard was named SCIAC defensive player of the year, which is the first time in the program’s history.

“I don’t think I have enough words to describe Tyler. He’s such a big part of this program. He’s done so much for us, just to lead in the back as a defender,” Ruiz said. “To me, I think, the little things he does off the field play a big role to him helping everybody.”

Alongside Sherard, sophomore midfielder JP Melgoza and senior midfielder Chris Pelaez got first-team All-SCIAC and senior defender Erick Mejia got second-team All-SCIAC.

“Winning that first playoff game definitely got the boys to rally,” Sherard said. “Couldn’t be better if there was a playoff game at home and in front of all the people you love, getting to play the game you love. So it was a great experience.”

Melgoza said that he was grateful to get the achievement of first-team All-SCIAC, and credited the team as a whole for his success.

“First time getting it. It’s very exciting, very humbling,” Melgoza said. “Emotions were just very high when I saw that I got picked for first-team. I wouldn’t have done it without all my teammates because you know they play a big part in just everything. Without them, I wouldn’t be getting that award.”

Sherard said he was proud to not just receive SCIAC defensive player of the year, but also to be able to contribute to the entire team.

“It was awesome. I wasn’t expecting it necessarily, but to get that achievement and to mean that I’m contributing to my team in such a positive way, it meant a lot to me,” Sherard said.

Melgoza said that the team’s camaraderie was key to the success of the season. 

“This is more than just teammates, we’re brothers here,” Melgoza said. “And so we kinda incorporated that into our game and showed a lot.”

Despite being disappointed they could not progress further, Ruiz said that the positives outweighed the negatives.

“We had a good group of guys. Good culture. And I think that all that played a big role into getting us into the tournament and having a good run to the semi-finals,” Ruiz said

Ruiz said he credits his senior players in particular as being a driving force behind the culture and work ethic but said that ultimately the whole team played a role, making them complete.

“There were leaders on and off the field that were able to guide us. Sometimes, when you need a little bit of leadership, those guys definitely stepped up,” Ruiz said. “I think that and the freshman we brought in and the guys who were juniors and sophomores gives us more of a whole team type of deal.” 

The team has seniors coming back for their fifth year, as the COVID-19 pandemic granted players an additional year of playing eligibility, and Melgoza said that he is looking forward to that. 

“Oh, we look strong, definitely strong,” Melgoza said. “We’re coming in with a lot of returners…a lot of people decided to stay, so I’m excited for next year.”

Looking ahead, Ruiz is eager to work with the Kingsmen to build on the successes of this season. 

“I think they’ve tasted what it is to be in tournament for two years back-to-back. First time, too, in program history. This is the first time we’ve been able to go back-to-back years to the tournament,” Ruiz said. “Now we just gotta be a little better next year and get to the final and hopefully win it.”

The Regals, who had to overcome a turbulent start to their preseason following a COVID-19 outbreak among members of the team, recovered by making the SCIAC tournament’s semifinals and having six Regals earn All-SCIAC awards, giving California Lutheran University the second-most honorees in the conference.  

Senior defender Kaitlyn Weaver recalled the start of the season, and how doing well in the early games set the tone for the season. 

“We did fairly well at Texas in our early games away,” Weaver said. “And another big win for us was Wash. U. That was a nationally-ranked team, and so that was super cool to get that 2-1 win.”

Among the Regals’ successes was having their players awarded offensive and defensive player of the year in SCIAC. Senior forward Isabella Veljacic was awarded offensive player of the year and Weaver received defensive player of the year. 

Veljacic said that she was excited to see her hard work pay off from her training during the summers of her first-year at the university as well as her junior year to build her confidence.

“It took a lot of hard work. It’s always been a goal of mine, but never something that I always thought about,” Veljacic said. “My freshman year I would have never thought I would be named the athlete of the year. It’s just rewarding and it just goes to show that my team helps a lot in the success that I have.”

Weaver also credited Veljacic’s work ethic. 

“Bella has worked really hard for a long time to be one of the top scorers and the top offensive athletes in our league and it was really cool that she was awarded for all of her hard work,” Weaver said.

Veljacic said that building relationships on the team also aided in her receiving the award, which was a sentiment shared by Weaver too. 

“That’s definitely been one of my goals for a couple years now. So chasing that [has] just been an awesome goal to look forward to,” Weaver said. “But I couldn’t have done it without the help of my team, obviously a lot of stats go into that. And just having a solid backline around me, I think has been an integral part of earning that award.”

Weaver said that Pomona-Pitzer often gets defensive athlete of the year, so receiving this title reflected well on the team as a whole, as she believes that the future of the Regals is looking good. 

“Our bench was really, really full and has so much depth, so that’s really good for them going into the next season,” Weaver said. “They have really strong players and really strong freshmen who got to get a year under their belt.”

While Weaver is earning her credential to become an elementary school teacher by next year, Veljacic will utilize her additional year of eligibility, as she hopes to come back next year to play another season for the team.

“I think there’s big things for the future. We have a good team to go off of,” Veljacic said. “I’m just grateful that I have a fifth year to do and hopefully make the most of it.”