Author: Jeremy Shapiro
After dropping the season opener to the University of Redlands over five weeks ago, the Occidental women’s lacrosse team bulldozed through their next nine games, dropping them to second place in the SCIAC. The Tigers (9-1, 3-1) are off to the finest start in school history, which includes a marquee 14-9 victory over previously ranked Claremont McKenna. Additionally, the Tigers racked up wins against SCIAC rivals Whittier and Pomona-Pitzer.
The Tigers, led by head coach, Michele Uhlfelder, are in the midst of their third year as a Division III program. Coach Uhlfelder brought fourteen years of Division I collegiate experience to Occidental with hopes to construct a successful program on her own.
“Occidental was a great opportunity to start a new program from scratch and build a foundation for excellence in the future. I knew it would be a very rewarding endeavor and I was ready for the challenges,” Uhlfelder said.
The Tigers field a young squad that includes nine first-years, five sophomores and five juniors. A strong contribution from underclassmen is central to the Tigers recent dominance. “Our freshmen have come in and made an impact for us, all over the field and specifically in the goalkeeper position. Our junior class is very experienced and is the major leaders of the team. They have helped the program evolve from the first day of its inception,” said Uhlfelder.
Sarah Kessler (junior) is one of the offense leaders for Occidental. She attributes the change in the team to the confidence of the players, both in themselves and in the coaches. “I think the difference in the team between this year and last is the confidence of the defense, the increased scoring depth, and our confidence in our coaches’ strategies and plays,” Kessler said.
In addition to Kessler, Tori Larson (sophomore) andRebecca Belding (sophomore) lead the Tigers statistically on the offensive end, but the defensive unit is the key component to the team’s success. “Our defense gives the attack confidence to successfully execute our plays,” Kessler said.
The Tigers have outscored opponents by fifty goals over their last ten games, limiting opponents to a combined 97 points. Adrienne Ruth (freshman) has stepped in as the starting goalkeeper and helped anchor the best statistical scoring defense in the SCIAC.
With a rematch looming against Redlands in two weeks, the Tigers look to avenge their only loss of the season in a match that could potentially put the Tigers back in first place in the SCIAC.
The team can be seen in action again on April 7 when they travel to Whittier College. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m.
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