For the past two years, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team (17-1-4, 12-0-3 SCIAC) has been plunged from sunny Californian fields into below-freezing temperatures as they ventured to Illinois and Wisconsin to try their skill in the NCAA tournament.
Last year, the Hens made it to the second round of NCAAs in Normal, Illinois, despite an up-and-down season which scraped them to a fourth-place seed in the SCIAC Tournament.
This season, the Sagehens had an unprecedented run and tremendous improvement over their previous season’s results, going undefeated in conference with a 17-1-4 overall record and 12-0-3 record in SCIAC. In addition to their regular season success, the Sagehens advanced to the Elite 8 of the Division III National Soccer Championships, a first for the program and for any SCIAC school since the conference’s founding in 1915.
When asked what made the difference in this season versus the previous seasons, head coach Jennifer Scanlon said the group “set their goals and expectations very high and then totally committed to reaching those goals, day in and day out and in all phases of their lives.”
“The keys for us were talent, plus commitment, plus executing on game day,” she continued.
This team has depth at every single position, with both strong seniors and newer players working together well and sharing starting positions. There were only a few players on the team that consistently had starting spots because of the team’s surplus of depth. The team dominated post-season conference awards. Eight Sagehens were selected to All-Conference teams, while four were awarded regional All-West honors, with Nadia Alaiyan PO ’17 and Katie Tao PO ’17 on the All-West First Team, and Corey Goelz PO ’17 and Brianna Lau PO ’20 on the Second Team.
Alaiyan was also selected as SCIAC Player of the Year, and Lau won the Newcomer of the Year award.
The Sagehens’ main goal of the season was to focus on consistency and have that translate into conference game play. Going into the season with the theme of “Unfinished Business,” the team took it a game at a time, climbing the ladder to the SCIAC Championship and then to NCAAs.
“Our first goal of the season was to have that consistency over the entire regular season,” Scanlon stated. “To do the little things well, play lock-down defense and finish our chances on attack. That equation adds up to winning on most days.”
Having Alaiyan, the SCIAC Player of the Year, and Lau, Newcomer of the Year, in the Hens’ back line helped the squad on their way to a 12-shutout season, not to mention all-star Goelz in goal.
Goelz, who at one point led the nation in save percentage, ended up at No. 5 with .915. As a team, the Sagehens were No. 13 in the nation in goals-against average with .38, tied for No. 10 in the nation in shutout percentage, and scored 58 goals. Goelz and the team’s strong defense overall were a major factor in the team’s success.
Two weekends ago, the Sagehens faced University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (22-2, 7-0 Conf.) in the Sweet 16, where they won 3-0, and then the No. 11 University of Chicago (18-3-1, 4-3 Conf.), where they tied 1-1 and then lost in penalty kicks.
In the Elite 8 game against the UChicago Maroons, P-P was on the board early when Abby Onderwyzer Gold PO ’18 shot a rocket into the goal in the sixth minute. Even though the Maroons controlled more of the offensive pressure throughout the game, the Sagehens appeared to be smooth sailing going into the final minutes. In the 88th minute, Maroon first-year Hanna Watkins scored a goal to even the score and push the game into overtime.
In both overtimes, the Maroons continued to dominate but failed to convert on their 12 shot attempts, which led to a shootout. The Sagehens and Maroons both missed their first penalty kick and made the next five. On the seventh shot, UChicago keeper Katie Donovan made the save, handing the win to the Maroons.
The Sagehens had a remarkable season, and their loss in penalty kicks should not diminish their success this year and future success to come in what looks like continued potential for dominance in the coming years.