Like the Red Sox and the Yankees, Pomona-Pitzer and CMS always bring their A-games when they face off. And last Wednesday, in front of 150 screaming fans, neither of the schools’ women’s soccer teams disappointed. Clutch goals from Tracie Lopez PZ ’12 and Allie Tao PO ’14 made the difference in this back-and-forth game as P-P edged CMS 2-1.
Going into the game, the Sagehens faced a recurring problem: they had no goalkeeper. With keepers Talia Shulman PZ ’14 and Emma Wolfarth PO ’14 both injured in the line of duty, P-P was on the verge of desperation—either converting a field player to goalie, or even worse, searching the ranks of PE soccer classes for a ringer.
Luckily, Wolfarth decided that she could suit up and play through the pain of a torn meniscus, showing grittiness on par with Curt Schilling’s “bloody sock game” during the 2004 ALCS. Still, she had been hurt since preseason, and her first game would be under the lights at CMS in front of what is indisputably the biggest and rowdiest fan section in SCIAC—not exactly the cakewalk you look for in a young goalkeeper’s debut. And Wolfarth was not the only injured Sagehen who laced up her cleats on Wednesday night—more than half the squad limped into the game with some form of injury.
“I’m pretty sure that everyone on our team has been injured at some point this season,” said Jenni Hebein PO ’12, who is out for the season with a knee injury. “We’re pretty well known in the training rooms.”
From the opening whistle, P-P was forced to play defensively and counter-attack whenever they could. Embracing their new role as the Inter Milan of SCIAC, the Sagehen defense heroically fought off attack after attack from CMS—the Athenas outshot P-P 6-4 in the first half and 8-5 in the second. Wolfarth, essentially playing on one leg, made four saves in the course of the match, while CMS goalie Hannah Dunham CMC ’14 made just one.
The Hens caught their first break in the 17th minute, when Lopez intercepted a back pass and quickly beat Dunham before the stunned Athena defense could recover. Lopez was sprinting all over the field for almost the entire game putting pressure on the Athenas’ back line, and it paid off early.
“At halftime, she nearly puked on the field,” said defender Anika Burrell PO ’13. “She was running so hard out there.”
At the half, the score was 1-0 Sagehens. Still, playing with a narrow lead is one of the most difficult things to do in soccer—your opponents throw everything they have at you. With a flurry of substitutions, CMS put 23 different players into the game to wear down the Sagehen defense. In the 61st minute, the Athenas finally found the right combination of attacking players and equalized with a goal off the head of Division I transfer Lizzie van Buskirk CMC ’11.
Still, the Sagehen offense was not done scoring. In the 71st minute, Tao came up huge for P-P. After getting on the end of a through pass behind the CMS defense, Tao calmly chipped the ball over Dunham, who was rushing out to make a play and was stranded on an island as the ball sailed into the net. With Tao’s goal, it was 2-1 Sagehens with 19 minutes left to play.
Again, P-P was placed in the tough position of having to defend a one-goal lead while CMS fired away with both barrels. The Sagehens held on admirably under the comand of Wolfarth. With two minutes remaining, the new keeper tipped away a screaming volley that looked destined for the top corner of the net.
“It was definitely going in,” Burrell said later. “With the lights, [Wolfarth] couldn’t even see, she just hit it blindly and kept it out.”
“She dominated,” added midfielder Claudia Zaugg PO ’13. “She played the whole game in beast mode.”
Technically, the CMS game wasn’t the season finale—that would come three days later against cellar-dwellars La Verne (1-10-1 in conference and the closest thing SCIAC women’s soccer has to Caltech). But it was a fitting end to the 2010 season. Looking to next year, the Sagehens will lose only four seniors to graduation and hopefully suffer fewer of the injuries that crippled this year’s team.
“Next year, we plan on not having any injuries,” Burrell said rather optimistically. “We’re building our off-season program around injury prevention.”
Injuries notwithstanding, the Sagehens will return a strong core of young talent and a team that knows how to win clutch games. The 2011 incarnation of P-P women’s soccer will be a force to be reckoned with.