The Big Dance: Women’s Soccer takes SCIAC

Jesse Gonzalez

ASST. SPORTS EDITOR

Women’s Soccer defeated Pomona-Pitzer last Saturday in a 1-0 victory to claim their first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) post-season Championship in program history.

For the second time since 2003, Whittier’s Women’s Soccer has qualified for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championship. At the beginning of the season, the Poets were ranked seventh out of the eight teams. The team knew they had to pull together in order to reach their goal in winning.  “All year long, we used that as motivation,” said Head Coach Monica Gerardo. “We proved in each game this year, win or lose, that we deserve more respect as a soccer team and continue to play with that chip on our shoulder.” 

At the start of the season, the Poets were firing on all cylinders as they won five of their first six games. Right then and there, the team’s ambition of reaching playoffs seemed in sight; however, the team would lose five of the last six games during the mid-point of their season against thier opponents within the conference. The window of clinching the final spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) tournament was closing. 

“We just had to get the team clicking and on the same page,” said Coach Gerardo. 

“We knew that if we lost one more game after that, our goal of being in the top four of [the] conference would be out of reach,” said fourth-year forward Lauren Kai. “From that moment on, we went on to win five games in a row. I [have] never seen a team with more fight and more heart than this one.” 

As if awakened from their mid-season slumber, the Poets would end the season winning five of the last seven games, pushing their way into the 4th ranking of the conference. Celebration had to be shortened as Whittier prepared for their rival opponent Cal Lutheran. The Poets were 0-2 during the season against Cal Lutheran, and managed to score one goal during their series. The Poets were in hostile territory as they were on the road last Thursday to begin Semifinals.

Cal Lutheran had a 2-1 lead in Thursday’s game until the 2nd half. Soon after, second-year defender Andrea Aldama scored the game-tying goal during 76:45 mark to send the Purple & Gold into overtime. Cal Lutheran’s first-year goalkeeper Gabby Flores scored an unassisted goal in the Sagehen’s own post. Ending the game and completing the 3-2 upset by Whittier, advancing them to the SCIAC Postseason Championship. 

The following Saturday, the Poets prepared to face off against the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer in the SCIAC title game. Excitement and anticipation were running high prior to the game. “My team and I were extremely excited to play in the SCIAC Championship game because it had been our goal since the beginning of the year,” said fourth-year attacking center-midfielder Leah Kolek. “We worked hard, persevered -and, most importantly- believed in one another to achieve our goal.”  

“We were pumped and ready to do whatever it took to get that win against Pomona [Pitzer],” said Kai. 

ASWC Senate, The Dean of Students Office, and Whittier College Athletics invited 50 Whittier College students to cheer and support Women’s Soccer in their efforts to bring home a Championship to Whittier. With the help and support from the school by the team’s side, Whittier put all their effort into achieving a goal that was set during the beginning of preseason. 

The game proved itself to be  tightly contested and was scoreless until the second half, whenLeah Kolek scored the only goal during Saturday’s matchup. “I knew it was going to be a close game and wanted to capitalize on my opportunities” said Kolek. “I saw an open shot and I took it. It felt amazing to be able to score for my team. I’m glad that it went in and I was able to lead my team to victory.” 

  Women’s Soccer huddles in tight for a celebratory group photo. 

Women’s Soccer huddles in tight for a celebratory group photo. 

It only took Kolek’s goal for the Poets to shutout the Sagehens 1-0 and claim the title as SCIAC Postseason Champions. As the final whistle blew the team ran onto the field to celebrate, players were filled with emotion and cheered in victory. “It signifies how much heart and fight this team has. There is no other group of girls I would rather share this experience with,” said Kai. 

The team spoke about what this championship means to them. For those seniors who lost every game during the 2014 season, this would be the perfect ending to finish off their season. “The desire, belief, and passion was all present to win the game,” said Aldama. 

“All the 6 a.m. [practices], sprints, the wins, the losses; all of it was worth it to reach our goal of being SCIAC champions,” said Kolek.  

“It was an emotional ride for us seniors; it’s definitely nice to have something special like this to look back on,” said Kai. 

“Knowing that it was my last year as a Poet it meant everything to me. Ending my senior season as SCIAC champs is a dream come true and I can’t imagine a better send off,” said Kolek. 

The Poets played as a whole this season and will be remembered as the seventh ranked team who managed to win the biggest trophy in their collegiate career. “This team will remember this season, the ups and downs, for the rest of their lives,” said Coach Gerardo. “It’s been a very positive student-athlete experience for th is team and at the end of the day, no matter what happens, I know they’ll walk off the field with a smile on their face, knowing they were a part of something great.” 

The Whittier College Women’s Soccer team will be competing in the NCAA Regional Championships Saturday, Nov. 11 at 8:00 p.m. as they take on Pacific Lutheran in the first round.