Highly ranked P-P women’s soccer aims for improved postseason, Stags pursue repeat SCIAC championship

A male soccer player in white kicks the ball while another male athlete in black tries to guard him.
Jorge Guillen-Lopez PO ’23 attempts to evade a Chapman player. (Max Weirauch • The Student Life)

P-P women hope to overcome history of playoff woes

Though they’re a regular season juggernaut, postseason luck has been nothing short of nightmarish for the Sagehen women’s soccer team (7-0-1, 3-0 SCIAC) in recent years.

The team last won the conference championship in 2015. In the years since, they’ve been bounced from the playoffs twice in penalty kicks, and also fallen 1-0 in the SCIAC final.

But head coach Jen Scanlon thinks this year’s squad has “more talent than we’ve ever seen in the program.”

“We’re recruiting players and athletes that fit our style so they can come in and be successful and continue to develop that highly tactical, technical and athletic style of soccer we play,” she said.

Currently ranked No. 9 in the nation for Division III — the highest billing in program history, according to the P-P athletic department — the team is poised to claim another SCIAC title and, if luck goes their way this time, return to the NCAA tournament. 

The Sagehens made it to the Elite Eight in 2016 before losing 7-6 in penalty kicks to the University of Chicago.

P-P has been dominant thus far, scoring 23 goals to only one conceded, which came in a 7-1 bulldozing of La Sierra. The results are a testament to the Hens’ strong team defense, which is “one of the reasons [they] have the ball so much,” Scanlon said.

More stellar performances from goalkeeper Isa Berardo PO ’20 and midfielder Bria VarnBuhler PO ’20, both of whom have already earned SCIAC Women’s Soccer Athlete of the Week honors, will be essential if the Sagehens want to continue this level of play through the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, being ranked doesn’t guarantee you anything,” Scanlon said. “It’s more of a motivator for us to continue playing our top notch-soccer.”

The Sagehens will next take on Redlands at 11 a.m. at home Saturday.

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Veteran Stag squad hopes focus on ‘little things’ will propel them to repeat SCIAC title

Sitting at the top of the SCIAC standings, members of the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s soccer team (6-2, 3-0 SCIAC) believe they have what it takes to stay in that position and become repeat conference champions.

The squad graduated just two seniors last year, so their experience and consistency could give them an edge against younger teams. But the Stags are also looking to their first-year players to step up and fill key roles throughout the season.

“Our first-year class is uber-talented,” Adam Singer CM ’20 said. “If we want to be a national championship-caliber team, our first-years are going to need to play like sophomores, juniors and seniors.”

Forward William Barton CM ’22 has been a key contributor to the Stags’ attack, netting in three goals and assisting on one. On top of anchoring the defense, Singer has also found the back of the net twice.

Given the Stags’ level of talent and experience, Singer said focusing on the “little things” will keep them grounded throughout the season.

“Soccer aside, one of the things we do is we take care of our field every day,” he said. “After practice, we sand and seed the field. It creates a culture of accountability.”

After rolling Cal Lutheran and Occidental to open the conference slate of games, the Stags took down Whittier 1-0 on Wednesday in their home opener. CMS will next play at Caltech at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Athenas make strides to get back on track after 2018’s fifth-place SCIAC finish

Fresh off a 2018 campaign that saw the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s soccer team come up just short of a SCIAC tournament berth, the Athenas (5-1-1, 1-1 SCIAC) are looking for redemption.

CMS has started out hot, winning five of its first six games and outscoring opponents 12 goals to none in victories. Their only goal conceded in those games came in a draw (1-1) against UC Santa Cruz on Sept. 8.

Part of the Athenas’ early success can be attributed to the way they approach games. During the first 10 minutes, the team aims to not allow any shots on goal on the defensive end and to get at least three shots on goal on the offensive end.

“We want to be able to come out very strong when we first start so that we don’t keep a slow pace,” defender Samantha Ree CM ’22 said, adding that the team has already met its first goal for the season, going undefeated in preseason.

As conference play gets into full swing, the Athenas will look to midfielders Rhiann Holman CM ’20 and Lauryn Jeans CM ’22 to be their primary playmakers. The duo has scored or assisted on nine of the Athenas’ goals this season.

The Athenas, who last won a SCIAC title in 2016, play their next conference game at Cal Lutheran at 7 p.m. Saturday, following a 2-1 loss against Occidental on Wednesday.

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Youth movement well underway for Sagehen men

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s soccer team hasn’t won a SCIAC title since 2014, and failed to even make the postseason tournament last year.

The struggling squad (2-5-1, 1-2 SCIAC) is off to another slow start this season, but its roster is stocked with young players. 

With 12 first-years and seven sophomores on the team, the Sagehens said they aren’t worried about their lack of experience.

“Because we have a new and young team, we really get to shape what our younger players’ understanding of college soccer is, and that’s really exciting,” Peter Heckendorn PO ’21 said. “By modeling the right ways to approach practice, and especially the right ways to approach games, it seems like we can create the team we want to have.”

Though the team has a losing record, a recent 3-0 drubbing of Chapman — aided by a goal apiece from youngsters Graeme Logan PZ ’23 and Jorge Guillen-Lopez PO ’23 — and a strong performance in a 1-0 nail-biting loss against La Verne have given the team hope for the rest of the season.

Coming off of a 1-0 loss to Cal Lutheran Wednesday, P-P will next face off against Redlands at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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