The Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team won its SCIAC conference opener thanks to a 55th-minute goal from Danika Bethune PO ’17 against a University of La Verne team focused on stopping the Sagehen attack. P-P remained undefeated on the season and improved to 3-0-1 with the win.
Playing a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, P-P took control of the game from the onset. Pulling off a credible imitation of Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” philosophy, the home team dominated possession throughout the proceedings, employing a short-passing strategy and regularly trying to carve out scoring opportunities while maintaining possession.
P-P increasingly utilized its left wing, with winger Agueda Dudley-Berrios PO ’17 central to most of its first-half play. The tricky winger was a constant thorn in the side of the La Verne defense in the first half. Apart from being a consistent outlet for her teammates, Berrios combined well with left back Jamie Kerester PO ’17, who came forward at every opportunity to support the offensive play. Only resolute defense from La Verne prevented the pair from carving out more clear-cut opportunities. Attacking midfielder Julia Dohner PO ’16 had a couple of close chances at the end of the first half: She shot wide in the 40th minute and, a couple of minutes later, beat a La Verne defender near the Leopards’ goal, but she failed to deliver the final ball as the first half came to a close at 0-0.
Coach Tony Basso, who stepped up as head coach after two season as assistant coach, made some changes in the second half that proved to make a vital difference.
Winger Nicole Quilliam PO ’15 injected much-needed pace and power on the right wing while Allie Tao PO ’14 brought flair in the middle of the park. There was a renewed urgency in the home team’s play as players began to impose themselves more on the game, with La Verne dropping back deeper and deeper. Tao fired an early warning shot at the start of the half before playing a tantalizing ball across the face of the goal, which only required a tap-in but avoided all the Sagehen feet in the 52nd minute.
Only a few minutes later P-P broke the deadlock. Quilliam cut inside from the right, received the ball, and executed a brilliant slide-rule pass, leaving Bethune with an open shot on goal. Bethune slotted the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper to put the Sagehens on top for good in the 55th minute.
The home side then toned down the tempo, focusing more on maintaining control and keeping the ball. Despite the slower speed, P-P continued to carve out goal opportunities. Tao came closest in the 70th minute, cutting inside a defender and unleashing a fierce shot that rocketed off the crossbar. In the 84th minute, La Verne keeper Delanie Pacheco made a brilliant save to deny P-P the all-important second goal. However, despite the failure of the home side to add an insurance goal, La Verne never threatened with credible scoring opportunities and failed to create a clear-cut opportunity throughout the match.
Post-match, Coach Basso claimed that the 1-0 score line did not accurately reflect the performance of the home side, but it did give him something to work toward for the upcoming games. He stressed the need to create more chances and then take advantage of those chances. He reaped special praise on Tao for her performance, calling her “a class above the rest.”
The win against La Verne also increased the Hens’ current win streak to three games. After starting the season off with a 3-3 tie against Concordia University Irvine, P-P won two games in the Slugfest Tournament held in Santa Cruz, Calif. In the first game of the tournament, the Hens defeated the host University of California, Santa Cruz Banana Slugs 2-1 on an overtime goal by Rachel Keyser PO ’15, the first goal of her collegiate career. Two days later, P-P picked up where it left off and took down Willamette University 2-0 thanks to goals from senior captains Tao and Charlotte Fisken PO ’14 and solid goalkeeping by Annie Wedel PO ’16.
P-P hosts Occidental College at 11 a.m. on Saturday for its second SCIAC match of the season. Occidental is coming off a convincing 5-0 win against Whittier College and will be a good test for the Hens.