Di Lella continues strong first season with game-winning goal against Pomona-Pitzer

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The women’s lacrosse team practices on Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Hannah Schoenberger/The Occidental

With five minutes remaining, the Occidental’s Women’s Lacrosse team found themselves tied with Pomona-Pitzer at 13 goals apiece, March 28. Both teams had entered the game with a 3–1 conference record, meaning the winner would take sole possession of second place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) behind Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS). Co-captain Ciara Byrne (senior) described how the game had been as closely fought as anticipated.

“The game was very tight and it was going goal for goal,” Byrne said.

Head coach Stephanie Mark thought her team made the breakthrough when reigning SCIAC offensive player of the year Alessandra Pelliccia (sophomore) put the ball in the back of the net, only for the goal to be called back. Pelliccia received a yellow card for a dangerous follow through, leaving the Tigers shorthanded as the game approached its conclusion.

Lauren Di Lella (first year) said that her teammate Emma Barrow (sophomore) was able to force a turnover, setting up Occidental to make one more push to get the goal that would give them the lead. Following an unsuccessful attempt on goal from Byrne, Di Lella scooped up the ball and put away what proved to be the game-winning goal for the Tigers.

“I had a lane and I just kind of took it,” Di Lella said.

Di Lella’s goal capped another fine performance in a first year season that Mark explained had impressed her greatly.

“Di Lella has scored key goals for us and it’s great I can rely on her for offensive production — she’s hitting her stride and enjoying a great freshman season,” Mark said via email.

Di Lella, from Danville, California, explained that she is just happy that she has been able to help the team in each game so far this season.

“I just want to be able to contribute as much as possible every game to the team,” Di Lella said.

Byrne, an economics and Diplomacy and World Affairs double major, led Occidental in the game with four goals. Her recent performances also drew high praise from Mark.

“Ciara is one of the best midfielders in the SCIAC right now, and she’s playing the best lacrosse of her career here at Oxy — she is such a hard worker and a great competitor and everything is just clicking for her,” Mark said via email. “She feels the urgency of being a senior and is making the most of every opportunity she’s given.”

The women’s lacrosse team practices on Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Hannah Schoenberger/The Occidental

The win gives the Tigers a 4–1 conference record following the first round of matches; while this puts them in a good position to hopefully push on from here, Byrne was not getting ahead of herself.

“We’re in second place in the SCIAC but we still have to play everyone again so let’s just see how it goes,” Byrne said.

Mark expressed her happiness at how the team has been performing so far this season and is optimistic regarding how far the team can go.

“The season has gone well so far – it is a great group of young women who love being around each other and working towards a common goal,” Mark said via email. “We have had the luxury this season of having two amazing captains in Sierra and Ciara and their expectations for the group are high. Every player is getting better each and every week so it’s very exciting to think about how far we can go in the conference tournament with this special group.”

If the Tigers are to achieve their team goal of winning a SCIAC championship, they will likely have to overcome a talented CMS team who are yet to lose in conference play. The Tigers have now dropped both regular season SCIAC games to the Stags.

“Claremont’s really, really good and is undefeated so that’s our biggest challenge,” Byrne said.

The women’s lacrosse team practices on Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 5, 2018. Hannah Schoenberger/The Occidental

The Tigers have now dropped both regular season SCIAC games to CMS following a 18–6 loss, April 7. There could be a third meeting between the two teams as there is a real possibility they could meet in the SCIAC championship game in the postseason tournament. Mark is ready for the challenge CMS provides and described what her team will have to do if they are to beat CMS.

“We will need to step up to great competition and play our game,” Mark said via email. “We need to be mentally tough and ready to compete — we will need to execute our game plan — have great communication on defense and be able to have fruitful offensive possessions with high percentage looks on cage.”

While a potential SCIAC-deciding match versus CMS may loom on the horizon, the Tigers look to get back to business against conference rival Chapman, April 11, in Jack Kemp Stadium.