Underdog Magic Runs Out, Athenas Lose in First Round

The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s soccer team fell 2-0 on Saturday night to No. 12 Hardin-Simmons University in the first round of the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Championship at California Lutheran University. The loss ended a successful season for the Athenas, one that saw the team upend a highly-touted side from California Lutheran University to win the SCIAC tournament to go along with a 10-9-3 record.

Going into the matchup with Hardin-Simmons, CMS was still feeling the momentum from their exciting 1-0 win over Cal Lutheran in the SCIAC finals, giving them high hopes before the match. Lauren Allen CM ’14, who scored the winner against Cal Lutheran, acknowledged that CMS was hitting its stride at just the right time.

“Our team is very excited to play Hardin-Simmons, and we think we really have a good chance of beating them. They beat Chapman University and Cal Lutheran pretty well in pre-season, but regardless we think we have a great chance because we are peaking as a team right now,” Allen said before the match.

However, it was not meant to be for CMS, as the team’s momentum did not carry over to the first-round fixture. Hardin-Simmons came out looking like the better side and proved to be too strong for the Athenas. Katie Haltiwanger grabbed a goal in each half for Hardin-Simmons to ensure a positive result for the Cowboys and a ticket to the second round of the NCAA Championship.

Despite adopting a more defensive strategy due to injuries, Hardin-Simmons was able to assert control of the game from the kick-off. CMS goalkeeper Hannah Dunham CM ’14 was called into action from the onset and had to make a couple of smart saves early on. However, there was nothing she could do on the first goal of the game. In the 20th minute, a Haltiwanger shot took a wicked deflection off a CMS defender, wrong-footing Dunham and allowing the ball to bounce over the line. Having the lead they wanted, Hardin-Simmons eased off the pressure and adopted a more defensive approach as the first half came to a close.

The second half was more of the same for Hardin-Simmons. Even though CMS was able to get some shots away in dangerous positions, most, if not all, were blocked by a valiant Hardin-Simmons defense. Aware of the Athenas’ prowess at corner kicks, the Cowboys buckled down on two CMS corners they conceded in the 55th minute, keeping the Athenas off the board.

Hardin-Simmons started to increasingly play on the counter as the game progressed into its later stages. The Athenas could not break through the Hardin-Simmons defense. CMS forced the Cowboys goalkeeper Lexi Stinson into only one save, while Dunham had to make seven of her own.

The game was finally put beyond doubt in the 85th minute when Haltiwanger was able to break through the CMS defense, connecting with a Vivian Wells pass to score her second goal of the match and to seal Hardin-Simmons’ spot in the second round. 

Even though the Athenas were disappointed at exiting in the first round of matches, they will surely look back on the season fondly. Despite mixed regular season results, they were able to finish third in the SCIAC conference before postseason play. Though many thought they would be unable to make an impact in the playoffs, CMS was able to run the table: Not only were they able to upset rival Pomona-Pitzer 1-0 in the semi-finals, but they also earned a hard-fought 1-0 away victory in the final against favorite Cal Lutheran to seal the SCIAC championship.

On an individual level, four Athenas were recognized for their strong play during the season and were named to the All-SCIAC  soccer team. After scoring one goal and two assists on the year, first-year defender/midfielder Hannah Rosenberg CM ’17, especially useful for her long throw-ins, was named SCIAC Newcomer
of the Year. The Athenas had three players named to Second-Team All-SCIAC. Midfielder Shaundra Ullman CM ’14 earned the spot by controlling the midfield for the Athenas and notching the game-winning goal in CMS’ victory over P-P in the SCIAC semi-finals. Center backs Samantha Kunz CM ’15 and Megan Patterson CM ’16 were an integral part of the strong CMS defense that allowed a SCIAC-low 13 goals in conference play, and were also awarded for their seasons.

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