The Occidental women’s lacrosse team (12-5 overall, 9-3 SCIAC) entered postseason play last week in a three-way tie with the Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer. The Tigers were denied a first-round bye in the SCIAC Championship Tournament because the Bulldogs and the Sagehens secured the largest goal differentials among the three teams during the regular season.
Despite the bad break, the black and orange took the field against Whittier Thursday in its opening-round match-up. With a victory over the Poets, the Tigers would earn a point in the overall standings not available to Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer due to their first-round byes. Thus, Occidental would secure at least a share of the conference title with a later win over the Bulldogs.
The Tigers wasted no time drawing first blood, picking up two goals within the first six minutes of the contest. But the Poets started to fight back, trading goals with the black and orange for the remainder of the half. Occidental retained a 5-2 lead heading into the locker room.
Just under a minute into the second period, Whittier netted its third goal of the game, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Following the quick score, the Tigers went on a 9-2 offensive outburst in the final 22 minutes en route to claiming a 15-6 victory.
Junior attacker Alida Beck was the spark plug for the unit, sneaking five goals past Poet goalie Nicole Yorba (junior). Her defensive counterpart, Occidental goalkeeper Kirsten Hee (sophomore) anchored the squad with seven saves.
The Tigers then tried to carry over some of their first-round success into Monday night’s semifinal match-up at Redlands. Despite splitting the regular season series at one apiece, Occidental has been unable to beat the Bulldogs on their home turf in its five-year program history.
“Even though we have not had much success at Redlands, our game plan for [Monday] was to play for each other and leave it all on the field,” midfielder Alessandra Quaroni (sophomore) said.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-1 lead 23 minutes into the game, making it difficult for the Tigers to establish rhythm in the hostile environment.
But behind the leadership and offensive production of senior attackers Tori Larson and Rebecca Belding, the black and orange was able to cut the deficit to three by the end of the first half.
“Although Redlands started off the game with a few quick goals, we were able to keep a positive mentality and continue to be competitive,” Quaroni said.
Despite the temporary boost in morale, Occidental’s offense seemed stagnant at the start of the second half. On the other hand, the Bulldogs started to heat up, ultimately going on to score six unanswered goals to build an insurmountable 12-3 lead.
“A spree of unanswered Redlands goals to start off the second half was the turning point of the game,” Quaroni said.
Although it took almost 25 minutes for the black and orange to score its first goal of the second half, the unit went down swinging, unleashing a flurry of offense with two goals in the last 90 seconds. Despite the strong finish, the Tigers were unable to close the gap on the Bulldog lead, falling 13-6.
“We went up against a very solid Redlands team [Monday] night and could not get the offense going,” Tiger head coach Stephanie Janice said. “You aren’t going to win many tough games only scoring six goals.”
Although Occidental could not capture the program’s first-ever conference championship, it did finish the season with a strong 9-3 SCIAC record and a third-place finish in the final league standings.
“We did not play our best lacrosse [Monday night], and it would have been nice to put together a better showing,” Janice said. “But I am happy with the way our team played this season. They did a phenomenal job and should be proud of what they have accomplished.”