The Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team put its postseason woes squarely in the rear-view mirror Saturday afternoon, turning in a sterling performance against Cal Lutheran that earned the Sagehens their first SCIAC title since 2015.
With its 3-0 domination of Cal Lutheran, the nation’s No. 8 team (17-1-1, 12-1 SCIAC) also snagged a bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, giving the program a chance to replicate or improve on its 2016 appearance in the Elite Eight.
It was clear early on that the Sagehens would control the game, as SCIAC Athlete of the Year Bria VarnBuhler PO ’20 scored a statement goal in the fourth minute with an assist from Chloe Hamer PZ ’21.
“We just came out so fast and aggressive and really trying to grab control of the game quickly,” head coach Jennifer Scanlon said. “Scoring an early goal makes a world of difference.”
Hamer added a goal in the 17th minute, putting the Sagehens up 2-0 at the half.
“We just say, ‘come out and win the second 45 minutes,’” Scanlon said. “The goal in those situations is to win the second half over again, and you’re in [a] good position to close it out.”
P-P did just that. VarnBuhler tallied another goal assisted by Ciannah Correa PO ’22 and goalkeeper Isa Berardo PZ ’20 maintained the shutout with four saves in the second half.
Berardo’s impressive performance throughout the tournament left both opponents goalless and earned them tournament MVP honors.
“My success — it rides on their backs,” Berardo said of their teammates. “We do it together, so I’m just excited to keep going with them.”
Cal Lu was the only team to defeat P-P all season, and Hamer acknowledged that Saturday’s victory was “definitely revenge.”
“We wanted to really just play a better game,” Scanlon said of the team’s preparation for the Regals this time around. “We knew in [the loss to Cal Lu] we made a few critical mistakes and [Cal Lu was] really opportunistic and penalized us for those couple mistakes, so our goal wasn’t necessarily to just win — it was to fix the mistakes.”
Hamer said the team’s performance far exceeded just fixing mistakes.
“I thought my team played with so much heart,” she said. “We played like we were one mind, honestly, and every single person played the best game I’ve seen them play all season.”
Despite its regular season success in recent years, P-P has failed to capitalize in the playoffs, losing in the tournament final the last two years.
“The last two years we have watched other teams celebrate on our field … and that has been burning in their stomachs,” Scanlon said, adding that the win was especially meaningful for the team’s seniors, who had never experienced a SCIAC tournament win.
“For our seniors it’s been four years coming now, which is an absolutely overwhelming feeling,” Berardo added. “I am just so proud of this team and so proud of everything that we’ve all accomplished together, and we’re just gonna keep it going.”
After the game, many of the Sagehens were overcome with emotion.
“Everyone’s been crying like the whole time,” Hamer said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The Sagehens will travel to Iowa to face St. Scholastica in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday.
Hamer said the Hens know to not get complacent with their success.
“I think our team is really good at hitting milestones but then restarting and knowing that each game is like a restart and we’re not just like riding off of what we had before,” Hamer said.
Still, the team feels well poised to make a solid run in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re a good team,” Berardo said. “We have a lot to work for, and we have a lot of pride and a lot of honor, and we’re just gonna go out there and keep playing our best game — because we know when we play our best game, that’s when we get results and that’s when we get it done.”