Hens bring the heat, earn 1-0 win over CMS in first women’s soccer rivalry game

A female athlete in white moves between two athletes in blue during a nighttime soccer game.
Nicole Oberlag HM ’22 cuts between Megan Kuo PO ’20 and Emily Tomz PO ’22 in the CMS vs P-P game on Oct. 9. (Max Weirauch • The Student Life)

“Aim higher.” 

That’s the mantra the Pomona-Pitzer’s women’s soccer team (10-0-1, 6-0 SCIAC) had emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys and at the forefront of their minds as the Sagehens headed onto Pritzlaff Field on Wednesday night for the first Sixth Street rivalry game of the season.

The Sagehens are fighting to prove they deserve the program’s highest ranking in history. At No. 8 in the nation, expectations were high, but Wednesday’s close rivalry game saw the Hens bring the heat, edging out Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 1-0. 

“It feels kind of awesome,” Ciannah Correa PO ’22, a member of the P-P team, said. “It was just a grind to the end … And essentially what this game was going to come down to was who worked harder at the end and who had more heart on the field.”

Five minutes in, the Athenas (6-2-3, 2-2-2 SCIAC) saw their first good chance at the goal with a pass by Lauryn Jeans CM ’22 off a free kick, but goalkeeper Isa Berardo PZ ’20 was there to scoop it up.

The goal to win it all came early, in the 12th minute of the game. 

It was a bit anticlimactic — the ball came out of a long pass from Correa that set both midfielder Bria VarnBuhler PO ’20 and goalkeeper Athena Manthouli SC ’22 racing toward it.

With the goal vacated, both arrived at the same time, and out of a chaotic tangle of limbs the ball came off VarnBuhler’s leg and rolled into the net, securing the Hens’ 1-0 lead that would remain the rest of the game. 

“In the moment that we scored, it was like, overwhelming joy,” Correa said. “It just kind of felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work being piled into two seconds of play.”

About five minutes later, CMS had a shot at redemption with a long-range by Kira Favakeh HM ’20 that appeared headed for the net, but bounced off the crossbar instead. 

“I think we showed a lot of grit,” said Gabby Clouse CM ’20, a member of the CMS team. “We went down early, which is always tough, but I don’t think we wavered after that. And we didn’t lose control of the game at any point, so I’m proud of us for doing that.”

At the half, goalkeeper Manthouli had cinched four saves for CMS, and it seemed just a matter of time before the Athenas could start closing in. 

In the second period of play, which was even more frenzied than the first, CMS exerted major pressure on offense. 

A series of shots by Mia Duranczyk CM ’23 and Favakeh in the final minutes had spectators on the edge of their seats, but after multiple deflections over the crossbar and corner kicks that came up short, the Hens secured the win. 

Correa applauded “the insane hard work that my teammates had on the field because nobody stopped, nobody gave up in the end … it was always, ‘I’m gonna put in that extra effort.’”

CMS players seemed proud of their work, too, despite the loss.

“Obviously it wasn’t the result that we wanted to have, but I think something … that we did well was we really came out and we played the second half, and I think it showed us that we could obviously hang with that team,” Clouse said.

Correa also praised Athenas’ play in the hard-fought game. 

“CMS obviously plays with so much heart, it was just a really nitty-gritty game.” she said. “[It] came down to the last moments and I feel like when that last whistle blew I felt so relieved, like ‘Oh my goodness, we did it.’” 

Last year, the women’s soccer rivalry games saw CMS win at their home field and tie at P-P, so this first Sixth Street face-off of the season was highly anticipated. 

This season, the Sagehens are working to stay grounded despite their big win streak.

“Once you’re on a win streak, it’s hard to continue to find the drive to improve, and I feel like we’ve been handling that really well in practice,” Correa said. “Of course it’s easy to become complacent. … But that’s just not something you see in our practices.” 

Next up for the Sagehens is a home game against Caltech on Saturday. The Athenas will host Chapman the same day. 

Two female college athletes vie for the ball during a nighttime soccer game.
Taylor Arakaki SC ’23 cuts inside Anna Ponzio PZ ’22 during a game on Oct. 9. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)
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