After a season marked by a few hard-fought wins but mostly nail-biting, one-goal losses such as the year-ending 24-16 loss on Apr. 22 to the CMS Athenas, many casual fans of Pomona-Pitzer women’s lacrosse (4-13) might be skeptical of the team’s improvement. However, the score disguises how much progress the team has made since the beginning of the season, thanks to constant support and instruction from head coach Brighde Dougherty and their own hard work in practice.
Playing an away game earlier in the season on Feb. 28 against the top squad in the West Region, the Sagehens held tough for the first few minutes, trying to overcome a 2-1 deficit. The Athenas’ offense wouldn’t be held down for long, though, and ended up winning the game 24-6.
The next time the team’s met, CMS once again put up 24 goals. The Sagehens, on the other hand, played a vastly better game on their home turf. At no point in the game did it look like the Athenas would run away with the victory, and indeed, the Sagehens were only down by a couple of goals for most of the first half. A few missed opportunities from careless penalties and fouls in the half may have made the game even more competitive. Led by an outstanding performance by co-captain Kayla McCulley PO ’09, the offense stepped up their game, even with one of their top midfielders, Hannah T’Kindt PO ’11, out of the lineup with an injury.
“I was really pleased with our effort in the second [CMS] game,” said co-captain Kayla McCulley PO ’09. “For the entire 60 minutes, we matched their level and definitely showed that their dominance in West Region can be challenged.”
In between the two CMS games at the beginning and end of the season, The Sagehens managed to put together four wins against the University of Dallas, a 19-6 drubbing, Oberlin College (20-12), Birmingham Southern College (15-8), and Occidental College (23-7). The Sagehens could also have achieved at least three more wins over the course of the season with a lucky bounce here or a quicker save there against Whittier, Redlands, and the University of the Pacific, as the Sagehens lost these games by a single goal. The loss to Whittier, coming in the first game of the season, was particularly tough, as the Sagehens were up 10-3 at halftime.
That loss, followed by another at the hands of CMS in the second game of the season, would have been tough for many teams to bounce back from. However, the Sagehens continued to play hard for the rest of the season, both in games and in practice. The fact that there were relatively few players on the team, having only 18 players at most during the season, actually helped out in keeping up their morale.
“The chemistry was so great,” commented McCulley. “We were always so close.”
P-P also benefited from strong individual performances on the field. The entire senior class, led by McCulley and Liz Mackell PI ’09, always gave their best efforts in their last year as Sagehens. Goalie Kristin Raphel PO ’11 was also fantastic in net, despite playing with an injured back for much of the season and balancing lacrosse with women’s rugby in the same season. Opponents taking free position shots were often denied by the sophomore phenom, helping the Sagehens to stay close in many games.
“Kristin proved again why she’s one of the best goalies in the region,” said McCulley. “When the defense struggled with injuries, she was as steady as a rock for us.” Helping Raphel to share some of the goaltending duties was Casey Gordon PI ’12, who also helped the offense stay sharp in practice as the team’s other goalie.
But the biggest surprise this season was the play of Martha Marich PO ’12. Marich came into college having played as a defender for her high school lacrosse team, but to fill other needs, Dougherty shifted her to midfield at the start of the season. Marich instantly became the team’s top goal-scorer, using her speed and stick technique to put up a simply unbelievable 91 goals over the course of the season, all in her first year as a midfielder and as a collegiate player. To put that in perspective, Marich averaged 5.4 goals a game, nearly two hat tricks in each contest.
“She’s definitely going to be a cornerstone of our offense for the next three years,” said McCulley.
Marich, Raphel and T’Kindt will return to lead a Sagehen squad which, after exposing some of CMS’s vulnerabilities, will enter next season with a newfound confidence. However, they will certainly have some big shoes to fill in the absence of the eight departing seniors. Having witnessed the program’s transition from club to varsity team in between their first and second years at the Claremont Colleges, these seniors have certainly made a giant impact on what seems to be a rising Sagehen program.