Sagehens’ Season Defined by High-Powered Offense, Tao Named Player of the Year

It would be fair to say that the
Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team played some of the most breathtaking soccer in the
SCIAC conference. Playing expansively with quick transitions, relentless
pressing and a possession-based philosophy, the team proved to be a daunting
opponent for their rivals. The team peaked
before the playoffs as they failed to advance beyond the first round, however, as teams adopted an increasingly
defensive approach against the Hens.

Nonetheless, P-P set a school record with 13 wins—breaking the record of 11 set by the 2005
team—finishing the year with a 13-4-1 mark and an 11-3 record in SCIAC play. In addition, Allie Tao PO ’14 was named the 2013 SCIAC Women’s Soccer Player of the Year in a vote by the league’s coaches, and Nicole Quilliam PO ’15 earned First-Team All-League honors. The Sagehens were tied for first on the final day of the regular season before
having to settle for a second-place finish after falling to California Lutheran University, who finished first in the SCIAC conference. The Sagehens then, unfortunately, fell
at the first hurdle in the SCIAC playoffs. Facing rivals Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the semi-final,
they lost a hard-fought match 1-0.

After a strictly soccer-focused pre-season, P-P headed to
Northern California and defeated two undefeated teams in a tournament at University of California, Santa Cruz. They began the SCIAC conference with an inauspicious victory
against University of La Verne, which did have flashes of brilliance, but then suffered an
early setback at home to Occidental College as the visitors ran out winners with their
only shot of the game. The Sagehens got their act together, notching
four wins on the trot, but then suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to Cal
Lutheran 2-3. 

P-P’s heads did not go down, though. Continuing with
their ambitious offensive play, they won the next six games in convincing fashion, decimating La Verne, Occidental, and Whittier College in the process, before falling to
Cal Lutheran in the final game of the season, which was effectively a
title-decider. The team, however, could not get its act together for the
playoffs, losing to CMS, a team they had swept in
the regular SCIAC season.

Although the players deserve all the plaudits they get for a
truly exciting season, credit has to be given to coach Tony Basso for his
tactical approach and squad rotation. Lining the team up most often in a fluid
4-2-3-1 formation, Coach Basso encouraged attacking possession play and
successfully remedied early season problems of profligacy in front of goal and
susceptibility to set-pieces. One of his greatest strengths, though, was how he
effectively managed to rotate the squad during games, which often showed when
the Sagehens overwhelmed the opposition during the second half.

As far as the players are concerned, there were many
standout performances throughout the season. Goalkeeper Corey Goelz PO ’17
showed maturity beyond her age in goal and often acted as a sweeper, with
P-P employing a high defensive line. Central defenders Ari Sanchez
PO ’14, Taylor Fortson PO ’16, and Nadia Alaiyan PO ’17 played immense roles in
important clean sheets for the Hens, especially in the latter part of the
season. With the wingers cutting in from the flanks, there was great onus on
the full backs to provide width to the side, and they did precisely that with
Rachel Keyser PO ’15 and Jamie Kerester PO ’17 running down the flanks incessantly and even notching a
couple of assists.

In the midfield, even though it isn’t always a glamorous job,
credit has to be given to Amanda Coba PO ’15 and Charlotte Fisken PO ’14 for
playing the double-pivot role, laying the foundation for the rest of the team
to attack and acting as a deterrent to counterattacks. Katie Tao PO ’17 showed
her potential in the position with a match-winning performance against CMS. Nonetheless, the attacking midfield could be said to be the true strength
of team with Agueda Dudley-Berrios PO ’17, Quilliam, Julia Dohner PO ’16, and Allie Tao all making vital
contributions to the Sagehen cause.

It was the Quilliam show towards the middle of the season. Torturing opposing defenses with her power, pace, and finesse to
get to seven goals and four assists, one is left to wonder what could have been if Quilliam hadn’t been unfortunately injured in the latter part of the season.
However, P-P didn’t lose any of its attacking verve, as Allie Tao proved to be an extremely dangerous offensive threat. Described by Coach Basso as “a
class above the rest,” Allie Tao proved that in her “trequartista” role for the team.
She led the Sagehens with 11 goals and six assists in the season, while
finishing third in program history in both career goals scored (28) and total points
(71). She had a remarkable week with consecutive hat tricks in wins
over Chapman University and Whittier.

Special mention has to be reserved, however, for a vital
member of the team, striker Danika Bethune PO ’17. Acting as a focal point,
running the channels, and being a cool finisher, Bethune was the glue that
helped gel the Sagehens’ exciting offensive play together. It will be
interesting to see how she steps up even further in the coming years.

While Quilliam acknowledged that the team fell short of its ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA tournament, she has little doubt that next year’s team will pick up right where the 2013 team left off.

“While [reaching the NCAA tournament] escaped from our grasp in the loss in the semi-finals, all I can say is get ready, because we’re
coming in full steam ahead next season,” Quilliam said.

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