P-P women’s soccer wins SCIAC championship, punching ticket to second consecutive NCAA tournament

Soccer players congratulate a player.
Following their 2-0 shut out against the Cal Lutheran Regals, the P-P women’s soccer team congratulates Hanna Kim PO ’23 for receiving tournament MVP. (Nanako Noda • The Student Life)

Reprising its dominating match over Cal Lutheran earlier this season, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team again reigned superior over the Regals on Saturday by shutting them out 2-0, taking the SCIAC postseason crown. With this win, the Sagehens clinched a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship.

Striker Hannah Mandell PO ’23 shined the brightest on offense for P-P, assisting both midfielder Charlotte Tapp PO ’23 and attacking midfielder Anna Ponzio PZ ’22 on their goals. Regarding strategies heading into the match, Tapp said the Sagehens pushed to keep the Regal defense on its toes.

“Our coach always wants us to try to test the keeper as early as we can,” she said. “It just happened to work out today, which was nice.” 

This plan proved effective early in the match, as the Sagehens dominated possession throughout the first half. Within the first 19 minutes of play, Tapp found the back of the net after taking a shot that sailed past Cal Lu’s diving goalkeeper. 

In contrast to the Sagehens’ early success, the Regals failed to generate legitimate scoring opportunities and only managed to record one shot. Constantly defending Sagehen attacks, Cal Lutheran hardly moved the ball into P-P territory in the first half.

After halftime, the Regals came out in better form. Multiple Cal Lu attacks forced P-P goalkeeper Taylor Kane PZ ’25 to charge out of her box and save potential chances.

Amid these scoring threats, Anna Ponzio PZ ’22 struck a hard blow to the Regals in the 66th minute. She earned the game’s second goal by tucking a left-footed low shot into the bottom left corner of the net, effectively sealing the match. 

To conclude the game, the Sagehens outshot the Regals 18-7 while having nine shots on goal to the Regals’ two. 

P-P’s defense was stellar each of the three times it came up against Cal Lutheran this season; the Regals were shut out in all of them. Regals’ head coach Frank Marino was impressed.

“They’ve had a great defense all year,” he said. “Their back line has been tremendous. I thought we had some good chances today; we just didn’t put them away.”

After initial celebrations, the Sagehens returned to midfield to be officially announced as SCIAC champions. League officials then presented the Most Valuable Player award to veteran defender Hanna Kim PO ’23. 

“It’s a great moment just because it’s all coming back after two years of not playing soccer, two years of not being on campus with all of my teammates,” Kim said after receiving MVP. “Having a moment like that on the field and winning the championship again is amazing.”

Cal Lutheran players experienced a different set of emotions, exchanging hugs to comfort disappointed teammates. Many cried, including Marino, who praised his team’s growth this year for being more than just ordinary soccer players to one another. 

“It’s a hard day today because it’s the last day for some seniors, but they brought so much to the program,” Marino said. “We always talk about leaving the jersey in a better place, and I truly believe they did that.”

Meanwhile, P-P will hope to further the success it had in its 2019 NCAA tournament run, which saw them reach the Final Four for the first time in program history. Head coach Jennifer Scanlon said she’s already proud of this team for the adversity it has overcome and is optimistic about its chances.

“We’ve got a chance to make a good run,” she said. “This group has a ton of heart, and they’ve learned how to win; it has been pretty exciting to see them come together when it’s most important.”

The Sagehens play in the first round of the NCAA championships tomorrow against Pacific Lutheran in San Antonio, Texas. 

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