Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer suffered an upset Thursday afternoon as they lost a hard-fought match to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 1-0, most likely ending the Sagehens’ season. An NCAA at-large bid is still a possibility, but Thursday was most likely the last time the Sagehens will step on the field this season, while the CMS Athenas will move on to Saturday’s SCIAC final. Third-seeded CMS took the lead in the 54th minute, after Shaundra Ullman CM ’14 capitalized on a mistake by the Sagehen defense with a neat finish. Second-seeded P-P tried its best to get back into the game but its offense fell short, failing to make any chances of note. With the win, the Athenas improved to 9-8-3 and will move on to the SCIAC finals on Saturday against the winner of the semifinal between California Lutheran University and Chapman University this evening, while P-P fell to 13-4-1 and will wait to hear about an at-large bid.
After a disappointing outing against Cal Lutheran in the final game of regular-season play, the home side was looking to get back to its winning ways and seal a place in the SCIAC final. Facing rival CMS only added more spice to the occasion. P-P began with the psychological upper hand, having gotten the best of the Athenas in their two conference games. The first meeting at CMS went to overtime with Julia Dohner PO ’16 giving the Sagehens a 1-0 lead in the closing minutes of the first half. The Athenas tied the score late in regulation on a goal from Hannah Rosenberg CM ’17 in the 88th minute, but Danika Bethune PO ’17 scored just 2:05 into overtime to give P-P a 2-1 win. In the rematch, Katie Tao PO ’17 scored on a 35-yard blast in the final minute of the first half, and then set up an insurance goal from Dohner with 13:15 left. CMS trimmed the lead to 2-1, but the Sagehens were able to hold on the rest of the way to complete the season sweep.
With Nicole Quilliam PO ’15 and Bethune both returning to the starting line-up after recovering from injuries, the home side got out of the blocks very quickly in the playoff match. P-P maintained possession early on with Bethune effectively serving as the focal point of the attack. She tested the opposing goalkeeper in the eighth minute with a well-struck volley for the first shot of the game. Only a few minutes later, talisman Allie Tao PO ’14 made a good run into the offensive third before getting a decent shot away that was saved well by CMS goalkeeper Hannah Dunham CM ’14.
The Hens slowly increased their offensive pressure and made their best chance in the 25th minute: After a hasty corner kick clearance by the CMS defense, Allie Tao sent in a good cross that was hit first-time by Bethune and beat the CMS keeper. Unluckily, the ball rattled the far post and came back out.
With both sides seemingly worried about making the first mistake, there weren’t many clear-cut chances in the first half. However, both defenses made important interceptions and clearances which kept both sides scoreless as the first half came to a close.
CMS seized the initiative at the start of the second half, with Lauren Allen CM ’14 heading high after a cross had evaded the P-P defense. Just a couple of minutes later the Athenas capitalized on an opportunity to go to goal. In the 54th minute, Nadia Alaiyan PO ’17 played a clearance pass which was cut out by Ullman. With Sagehen goalkeeper Corey Goelz PO ’17 rushing out, Ullman made a smart finish with the outside of her boot to score the only goal of the game.
With roughly 30 minutes remaining, the home side made an appreciable effort to salvage their season, but the same high-powered offense that shined all season failed to generate any real chances.
Credit has to be given not only to the CMS defense that remained resolute throughout the match, but also to the Athenas’ midfield and attack, which demonstrated excellent pressing while making sure they did not leave any spaces for the home side to exploit. Against such an organized team, the Hens found it hard to carve out that all-important final pass, the CMS players effectively pressing whenever an opportunity presented itself. The closest the home side came was a cross by Amina Luqman PZ ’17, which was cleared by the CMS keeper with two Sagehens lurking at the far post. CMS became increasingly defensive as time ticked away, eventually parking the bus in front of goal and successfully managing to avenge the season clean-sweep by crushing P-P’s SCIAC dreams and holding on for the victory.
Despite not making it to the final, the Sagehens enjoyed a record-breaking season with 13 wins, breaking the old mark of 11 set by the 2005 squad. An at-large bid should not be ruled out, but if it was their last time on the field, the Sagehen seniors ended their careers on a note that did not match the tune of their season as a whole. While the seniors will be missed, the Sagehens have plenty of strength in their returning players, and all signs point to another strong season in Fall 2014.