Teamwork Propels Sagehens to First Ever SCIAC Championship

“It was honestly
a complete whirlwind,” attacker Aubrey Douglass PZ ’16 said. “In the third
overtime, Ally McLaughlin [PO ’16] pushed the ball off the draw, and Sallie Marx
[PO ’18] was able to get a great ground ball and push the fast break to goal.
Amongst several defenders, she was able to get the ball to me in the middle and
as soon as the ball went in [the goal], the first feeling was relief.”

This was the
thrilling end to the SCIAC semifinal game April 25 between the Pomona-Pitzer
women’s lacrosse team (13-3, 10-1 SCIAC) and the University of Redlands (10-8,
6-6 SCIAC). After two scoreless overtime periods, Douglass was able to find the
back of the net in the first 14 seconds of the third sudden-death period to
clinch the first SCIAC Championship for Sagehen lacrosse. Although the game was
a semifinal match, the Hens accrued enough points in the regular season
that a win in the semifinals made them automatic league champions.

For the Sagehens,
the win was even sweeter since the Bulldogs defeated them in the SCIAC championship game last year in overtime.

“I am so proud
that we were able to keep fighting and pull out a win that we deserve,” Douglass
said.

P-P got on the board quickly in the semifinal as attacker Rebecca Long PO ’17 scored two goals in the
first six minutes to put P-P up 2-0. Despite the fast start, Redlands fought
back, scoring three unanswered goals to take the lead. However, Long scored
again to tie the game at three apiece, completing a hat trick in less
than 20 minutes.

In the minutes following Long’s goal, the Bulldogs and Sagehens traded goals with attacker
Sarah Markowitz PZ ’16 scoring for the Hens. The final ten minutes of the half
featured relentless defense from both teams, a major theme of the match, as the
score remained tied 4-4 going into halftime.

In contrast to
the first half, the second began with a quick two-goal start by Redlands.
However, attacker Hannah Christenson PO ’17 was able to answer with a goal of her own to cut the Redlands lead to 6-5. As the game drew to a close,
Christenson made another clutch play, finding McLaughlin who buried a shot to
tie the game 6-6 heading into overtime.

After two
scoreless sudden-death OT periods, Douglass scored the winning goal
in the third OT.

“I was first
just relieved, and then the feeling of excitement came when I was hugging
my fellow teammates,” Douglass said. “We were so incredibly happy that we had
actually done it, that we had closed out the game and the SCIAC championship.”

The Sagehens’ resilience, persistence and teamwork played a major role in the semifinal game. Players are especially proud of their closeness.

“Our team is close-knit and I think that’s developed over the years of building this program,” defender Alexa Sarussi PO ’15 said. “We all just really value having fun on the field.”

According to Long, the teamwork leading up to
the winning goal was a microcosm of the collaborative effort of the entire team.

“I think the
best part was how collaborative the win was,” Long said. “To win not only on a
triple overtime sudden victory goal, but for that goal to
be an assisted one, is a really incredible experience.
Sallie and Aubrey ended the game with a fantastic play.”

However, the
Hens would have never had the opportunity to get the winning goal if it wasn’t
for the stellar P-P defense and goalkeeper Gaby Fukumura PO ’17. Fukumura made
three vital saves, one in the closing seconds of regulation and two in the
final minute of the first OT to keep the Hens alive.

“[Fukumura] had
an amazing second half and two incredibly clutch saves that are just as
important, if not more important, than the game-winning goal,” Douglass said. “Without
her, and the strength of our amazing defensive players, we would not have been
able to come up with the win.”

The Sagehen defense is comprised of Katie Savino PO ’16 and
four seniors: Sarussi, Annie Schatz PZ ’15, Brenna Gormally PO ’15 and Zoe Brown PZ ’15. The entire defense, especially the four seniors, have been a bright spot for the Hens all season.

“We absolutely
could not have done it without the seniors,” Long said. “They are great leaders
[and] not only amazing players, but also incredible people. We
couldn’t have been as strong on or off the field without them.”

As a senior, Sarussi has seen how far the P-P women’s lacrosse program has come in recent years, and she expressed how it felt to win the SCIAC championship after four long years.

“Winning
the SCIAC championship is the best way to end my time with this team,” Sarussi said. “We have come so far over my four years, and it’s been absolutely incredible to see
us grow and I couldn’t be prouder of this team.” 

A win in the
SCIAC championship game against Occidental College (11-5, 7-4 SCIAC) May 2 at
the Pomona South Athletic Complex would be a fitting end to the Hens’ most
successful season in program history. Although the Sagehens would like to carry
over their success into next season, they currently still have their sights set on
finishing this season strongly.

“I think that
our team is very good about taking one step at a time,” Long said. “We, of
course, want to be as successful as we can be next season, but I think our only
expectation of ourselves is that we give it 100 percent of our effort. And
for now, that means focusing on Saturday’s game.”

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