The Sagehens secured the win in Sixth Street soccer for the first time this fall, soaring to the SCIAC final and sending the Athenas home with dented shields.
At 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2, the No. 2 ranked Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) women’s soccer team beat their Sixth Street rival, the No. 3 ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Athenas, 2-1 in the SCIAC semifinal. Boosting P-P’s undefeated season record to 10-0-3 and allowing them to advance to the SCAIC final, the Hens’ victory eliminated CMS from the playoffs and ended their 2023 season.
Despite the loss, this game came at the tail end of a rebound season for the Athenas. CMS had a shaky start to the year, winning only two of their first eight games, but won five of the last eight. However, Thursday’s final whistle signaled that this was their 2023 finale and the last collegiate game for Laurel Ovenell SC ’24, CMS’ sole senior.
The game started with high energy from both sides. The Hens were obviously on their toes, looking to get ahead early and avoid a repeat of the stalemate in the last Sixth Street matchup that ended the Hens’ chance of a perfect season. However, the Athenas’ defense was able to control P-P, who metered passes to mount multiple runs into the final third but were unsuccessful in their execution, sometimes turning over the ball to the Athenas to counter.
Gigi Adiyia CM ’25 said that CMS anticipated the high level of play and prepared for the game by focusing defensively.
“We focused a lot on defensive shape and how we wanted to high-press and counterattack after,” Adiyia said. “I think we did a pretty good job. There were some instances where we won the ball back very high up the field and created chances.”
However, despite the Athenas’ best defensive effort, the Sagehens broke free and hatched from their egg in the 29th minute. From the top of the box, Hannah Hong PO ’26 rocketed the ball cleanly past CMS’ goalkeeper, Sadie Brown CM ’26, and directly into the right side netting, sending P-P fans into a flurry of celebration.
Hong explained she was ecstatic to execute one of the Sagehens’ few chances in the first half, noting CMS’ effective defense.
“We didn’t really have too many chances in the beginning,” Hong said. “It was hard to build out and make combination plays. I was looking for the perfect opportunity and I found it and I bent it in the corner. It was a lucky shot.”
The Sagehens maintained their focus through the chaos of the crowd, controlling the game in the minutes following. CMS had a few close chances, one almost resulting in an equalizer, but the Sagehens were able to fend them off.
As the clock continued to tick, CMS regained some control, drawing corners and creating a few promising chances. However, despite dangerous attacks from both sides, neither were able to execute and the scoreboard remained at 1-0 going into the half.
Adiyia said that despite trailing, the Athenas remained positive. She noted that their optimism stemmed from their previous game against Redlands, where they came back from an early deficit to win the game.
“We weren’t too worried, it was only one goal,” Adiyia said. “It was just a matter of putting it all out there and getting after it.”
The second half started slow. Play stagnated and the Hens fluttered steadily into the driver seat, controlling movement and distributing expertly. However, after 30 minutes of hard defense and distribution, the Athenas got possession and ran with it.
Riley Zitar CM ’26 powered a shot from the right side that ricocheted off the fingertips of goalkeeper Patricia DePalma PO ’23 and rolled just over the Hens’ goal line, equalizing the game 1-1 with 10 minutes left.
Now it was Athenas’ turn to explode. The CMS fan section screamed, and it seemed as if the Hens’ hard work might all be for naught. A draw was not an option in this playoff game, and with the game tied up, two fifteen-minute halves and penalty kicks were on the horizon. Knowing this, P-P began an aggressive counterattack immediately following the CMS goal.
The game transformed into an intense back-and-forth battle, with both sides amping up the pressure in hopes of turning the game in their favor. In the 88th minute, the Sagehens were delivered a gift. A P-P shot in the Athenas box that bounced off of a CMS defender’s arm was grounds for a penalty kick, and the whistle immediately blew to call it.
With two minutes left, and a trip to the conference finals on the horizon, Spencer Deutz PZ ’25 took a deep breath and lined up to take the kick.
Brown guessed correctly and dove to her left, but she wasn’t fast enough. The ball whizzed past her and into the back of the net.
On the bench and in the crowd, P-P supporters were electric, blowing horns, banging drums and cheering for the Sagehens. Deutz said she was elated when she scored.
“I feel like everytime I take a PK there’s a level of confidence that I have,” Deutz said. “I dialed into that and knew I was going to make it, so I was really glad I was able to seal the deal for the team today.”
Deutz was right, and despite frantic attempts from the Athenas to get a last-minute equalizer, the final scoreboard read 2-1 in favor of the Sagehens. Adiyia noted the painful way to lose, but said that the Athenas are looking toward the future.
“It’s an unfortunate way to go out,” Adiyia said. “But we’re a pretty young team. We have 12 freshmen and only one senior. It sucks that this season is over but we have to look forward.”
This victory secured the Sagehens’ place in the SCIAC final, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 4, away against the No. 1 ranked Cal Lutheran. The winner of that match will be named conference champions, a title the Sagehens have held for the past two years, and will earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. Deutz said that the Sagehens are optimistic going into the final.
“I think this game gave us a lot of confidence,” Deutz said. “We know that we’re the best team in the SCIAC and that we can do anything. We’re confident, excited and ready to go.”