Poets shutout Sagehens 1-0; Going to the “Big Dance”

Poets shutout Sagehens 1-0; Going to the “Big Dance”

Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com

CLAREMONT, Calif. – For the second time in program history, the Whittier College Women's Soccer team has qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships as they upset No. 2 Pomona-Pitzer 1-0 during the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Post Season Tournament Final.

The Purple & Gold entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed and came out on top upsetting the No. 1 seeded and nationally Ranked (No. 20) Regals of Cal Lutheran University Thursday night, the biggest upset win in program history before topping the No. 2 ranked Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer.

With the win, Whittier improves to 12-8 overall and earns the SCIAC's automatic qualifier to the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championships, which is the first time since 2003. The Poets await their draw which will be announced early this week.

In a back-and-forth contest that saw both teams notch six shots on goal, it was Whittier which broke the scoreless deadlock 70 minutes into the game as Leah Kolek (Diamond Bar, Calif.) launched a long shot from approximately 45 yards out into the top right hand corner of the net just over the outstretched fingers of Pomona-Pitzer goalkeeper Isa Berardo to give the Poets a 1-0 advantage. 

The Whittier backline, which included Ashley Gonzalez (Whittier, Calif.), Mikaela Malsy (Westminster, Calif.), Jenna Muise (Chino Hills, Calif.), Clarissa Terris (Saugus, Calif.), Andrea Aldama (Gardena, Calif.), and Sophie Nicotero (Sun City, Calif.) withstood the Sagehens' attempts at netting an equalizer as Whittier's keeper Lyla Matar (Glendale, Calif.) made three of her six saves in the final 15 minutes of action to help the Poets punch their ticket to the NCAA postseason. For her efforts, Kolek was named the SCIAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. 

Whittier, which is making its first trip to the NCAA Tournament under the direction of seventh-year head coach Monica Gerardo, advanced to the SCIAC Tournament final after knocking off top-seeded Cal Lutheran in a 3-2 overtime thriller.

Whittier was outshot on the game 11-10 and was at a disadvantage on corner kicks at 6-2.  Matar finished with saves between the posts and Lauren Kai (Torrance, Calif.) led the offense with three shots, with two being on goal.   

Semi-Final Game (Whittier vs. No. 20 Cal Lutheran)

After the Poets and Regals played to a scoreless tie over the first 45 minutes, Cal Lutheran found the back of the net in the 50th minute as Sam Cornejo put the hosts ahead, 1-0. Two minutes later, Whittier equalized through Miranda Yzabal (Whittier, Calif.) who struck the left side of the net following a pass from Lauren Kai (Torrance, Calif.) to make it 1-1. 

Cornejo again gave Cal Lutheran a one-goal advantage when she scored her second of the game in the 66th minute to make it 2-1. Andrea Aldama (Gardena, Calif.) provided the Poets' second game-tying goal at the 76:45 mark when her strike found the top left hand corner setting the score at 2-2. 

Early in the first session of overtime, a miscue by the Regals' goalkeeper resulted in an own goals as Whittier was able to seal its spot in the SCIAC Tournament championship game.