The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s soccer team’s (10-4-3, 6-4-2 SCIAC) 2019 season came to an unexpected end last Saturday evening with a crushing 1-0 loss to Chapman, eliminating the Athenas from contention for the SCIAC postseason tournament at the last minute for the second year in a row.
CMS finished the regular season in fifth place for a second straight year, and had been hoping the 2019 season would not end in the same devastating fashion as the previous year.
“It was definitely heartbreaking to not be able to make the SCIAC tournament last year,” Gabby Clouse CM ’20 said ahead of the season-ending loss. “I think that’s been a motivation for a lot of people to really work hard this season because traditionally we’ve always been a team that makes the tournament.”
The Athenas last made the playoffs in 2016, when they won the SCIAC title and received a bid to the NCAA tournament. With the team’s strong showing this season, it thought it had a shot at claiming the championship once again.
“Our team has really had our eyes set on an NCAA bid,” Clouse said. “We played a lot of really tough opponents at the beginning of the season and had some really good results, and so we know if we can make it to that tournament we’re gonna do really well.”
Saturday’s outcome means CMS won’t have an opportunity to see how it fares in the postseason. CMS needed to win or tie to make the SCIAC tournament, as their Oct. 12 win over Chapman meant they would have won the tiebreaker over the Panthers.
Athena soccer players repeatedly declined requests for comment after they lost, and head coach Jennifer Clark did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Going into the game, the team was confident it was capable of pulling out a win.
“This is 100 percent something that is in our control,” Clouse said. “I think if we come to the game and play the best that we can it shouldn’t be a problem at all, but that being said we do need to play the best that we can. It’s not gonna be an easy game.”
Kira Favakeh HM ’20 was also confident, and understood the high stakes of the matchup.
“I don’t really think there’s any doubt floating around, but I think we’re still aware of the challenge we have to overcome to keep moving forward,” Favakeh said. “I feel like we’re looking at it like there’s no other option really other than to beat them.”
Chapman scored in the 65th minute of Saturday evening’s matchup in Orange County, and also outshot CMS 12-8.
Despite the Athena’s strong season, the competitiveness of the SCIAC conference meant this one goal in this one game would put an end to their season.
“In all honesty, we didn’t want to get to this point,” Favakeh said. “We didn’t want our last game to be the deciding factor, but with the way SCIAC is, you’ve got a lot of really level teams playing against each other so there usually is that final battle for the last spot.”
The top four teams in the regular season move on to the SCIAC tournament, which tips off Thursday.
Pomona-Pitzer has the No. 1 seed, courtesy of a dominant 11-1 conference record. The next three teams, though — Chapman, Cal Lutheran and Occidental — all ended the regular season with seven conference wins. CMS ended its with six.
These four closely-matched teams were fighting for the final three spots in the tournament, while the sixth ranked team in SCIAC — Redlands — trailed far behind with only three conference wins. For CMS, it all came down to the last game.
Despite coming up just short of the tournament, the Athenas said before the game they were proud of what they’d built and accomplished this year.
“The team has a lot of energy and we definitely have a lot more depth than most teams typically do,” Clouse said. “It’s not just like the starting 11 who are playing and getting stats, it’s everyone contributing which has been really fun.”