Who knew shattering records was in the Sagehens’ bag of tricks? A near-perfect start to their season has written the 2023 Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) women’s soccer team into the history books for the best season start in program history.
This season, the Sagehens have taken Division III women’s soccer by storm, securing recognition in the national scene. After decisively winning the first five games of their season, a coaches poll ranked the team top nine in the nation on Sept. 19. Within the next week their ranking improved as a result of their next two victories, marking them as the seventh best program in the nation.
The Sagehens continued to dominate, looking to move up in the rankings after winning their ninth game of the season on Sept. 27. However, their most recent tie to the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) Athenas on Sept. 30 tarnished their previously perfect season and dropped their ranking to 16th.
Despite this slip in ranking, the early season accomplishments of the Sagehens, who are still undefeated, still marks the best start in history for the program. Apart from the coaches poll, the Sagehens’ success has been nurtured by their commitment to long-term growth and improvement, their dedication to preserving a close-knit team culture and their prioritization of their athlete’s well-being.
Goalkeeper Patricia DePalma PO ’27 said she believes that their high rankings this season have been merited and that seeing their hard-work pay off will help the team continue to strive for excellence throughout the season.
“I think it’s a really well-deserved ranking,” DePalma said. “I think everyone knows that we earned that spot and it’s motivation to keep working harder and get our rankings higher.”
With this unprecedented recognition for the team, DePalma noted not only the internal pressure, but also how their new position in the limelight will affect other teams’ approach to playing them.
“A lot of teams are coming in and playing aggressively and wanting to beat us, because once you’re ranked pretty high and one of the top teams, a lot of teams want to come in and beat you,” DePalma said.
Spencer Deutz PZ ’25 echoed DePalma, saying she noticed that teams have been playing more offensively against them but added that she believes the team is ready for the target on their back.
“I think there’s definitely a level of extra hunger to beat us from other teams … but I think we’re ready for that challenge and we’re setting ourselves up really well to meet those harder games head on,” Deutz said.
The Sagehens’ success early in this season goes beyond their undefeated record. One of their nine victories was especially significant. Two years in a row, the Trinity University Tigers have knocked the Sagehens out in the second round and first round of the national tournament, both times in penalty kicks. This preseason, the Sagehens defeated Trinity 2-1 at home.
Hannah Hong PO ’26 said this victory was especially meaningful.
“It felt like we finally got our revenge on them,” Hong said.
According to Hong, this accomplishment further highlights their potential as a national contender. Beyond looking for their fourth consecutive conference championship, Hong said she is excited to continue their successes beyond the SCIAC.
“I am excited to put in the work with my teammates and continue our SCIAC champs streak,” Hong said. “We have a very strong group of players this year and I know we have what it takes to carry ourselves far into the NCAA tournament.”
To be able to maintain their success across the rest of the season, the Sagehens are focusing on training and recovery. The team employs regular lifts with recovery days on Sundays to ensure athletes remain injury-free. According to DePalma, players staying healthy is a priority of P-P women’s soccer to keep the team in the best conditions possible. She said longevity is more important to the team than a hot start.
“The season is a marathon, not a sprint, so it is more about who can last the longest,” DePalma said.
Besides drills and training on the field or in the weight room, the team culture of P-P women’s soccer is essential to their success. The team chose to make this a very important part of their values to garner friendships beyond the game and to enhance their playing on the field.
“We put a big emphasis on team culture,” Deutz said. “That definitely starts with our coaches. That is big with them and that trickles into how we approach building team culture within the group of players as well.”
This familial team culture that separates the P-P women’s soccer from other teams is something DePalma appreciates. She noted how this allows athletes on the team to have a desire to show up for practice every day.
“The genuine camaraderie of this team is definitely special and unlike any other team bond I’ve experienced before,” Hong said.
Due to their strong team culture, Deutz said prioritizing the individuals on the team and emphasizing commitment has come easier for the Sagehens.
“The group we have this year is really special,” Deutz said. “We all have a pretty consistent winning mindset and we’re all super dedicated to playing for each other and so I think those two things definitely put us in a really good starting position.”
The Sagehens hope to restart their victory streak at home on senior day against the University of La Verne on Oct. 7 at 11:30 a.m.