Challenges await in Athenas’ hunt for SCIAC tourney title

CLAREMONT, Calif. – Head Coach Keri Sanchez will need the women to be at their best if the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's soccer team (14-5-1, 11-2-1) want to win their fifth SCIAC Tournament title in program history. With a guaranteed spot in the NCAA tournament on the line, the Athenas do have the talent to play on the national stage, but will need to win their next two games to prove it.

The Athenas took second place in the SCIAC, falling behind No. 21 Pomona-Pitzer (14-1-2, 12-0-2), and will face third-place Cal Lutheran (12-4-4, 6-4-4) in the opening round game. Both semifinal matchups will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 2. CMS hosts Cal Lu at 7 p.m. while PP hosts Chapman at 4 p.m. across the street. The winners of the two semifinal matchups will meet at the highest remaining seed's field for the final on Saturday, Nov. 5 to determine the automatic qualification to the NCAA Tournament.

For ticketing and general tournament information, please visit the SCIAC Tournament page.

SCIAC Tournament Page | Live Stats | Video

Seniors Laynee Laube (CMC) and Katelyn Faust (CMC) will be employed up top, and deservedly so as the two co-lead the team in goals scored. Laube has always been capable of producing goals for the Athenas, but this season her talent has been backed up by the statistics, recording eight goals and three assists. Her ability to poach the ball and be in the right place at the right time has been irreplaceable asset for the Athenas' offense while Faust's nifty dribbling and hold up play have left opposing defenses guessing. Although senior Makella Brems (CMC) has not scored a goal this season, the speedy senior has used her pace and well-timed off-ball movement to open up space for Laube and Faust on the offensive end, a special piece to the attack that has gone unheralded. Sophomore Sarah Malott (CMC) and freshman Rhiann Holman (CMC) stepped up this season to reinforce the midfield, providing much-needed support on the wings as well as keeping possession to offer the forwards more opportunities to attack.

The Athenas' regular season would not have gone smoothly as it did, have it not been for the incredible midfield play by senior Amy Johnson (CMC). The center midfielder has been the catalyst on both the defensive and offensive end, breaking up opposing attacks and distributing sharp passes to the forwards. Her crafty dribbling and tenacious play made her a difficult player to dispossess, and will certainly be counted on to bring stability to the Athenas during their playoff run. Coach Sanchez will also rely on the partnership between junior Jacey Coniff (HMC) and senior Emily Cassell (CMC) who played a key role in the Athenas' eight shutouts this season. The two defenders have improved over the course of the season at winning 50-50 balls in the air and communicating on the field. Moreover, they have proven to be a solid physical presence, along with sophomore Sydney Talmi (CMC) and junior Wren Osler (SC).

CMS comes up against No. 3 seeded Cal Lutheran Regals in the semifinal matchup. The Regals boast a sub-1.0 goals against average in SCIAC play as Coral Hasley owns a .836 save percentage. CLU has four shutouts in SCIAC play and has not allowed an opponent to score more than two goals in a game all season. In conference games, Kali Youngdahl leads with nine points, including four goals. Honored by the SCIAC on two occasions as the women's soccer Athlete of the Week, Ryley Settles sits right behind Youngdahl with four points from a pair of goals. Five different Regals have hit game-winning goals.

In the two meetings between the Athenas and Regals during the regular season, CMS won the first 1-0 and then they tied 1-1 in double overtime most recently. Laube and sophomore Megan Lo (CMC) did the scoring for CMS while CLU's Katelyn Kimball had the lone goal for the Regals.

In the other semifinal match, top-seeded Pomona-Pitzer hosts No. 4 seed Chapman. The Sagehens have three of the top-4 points earners in the SCIAC in Peri Cuppens, Natasha Thornton-Clark, and Danika Bethune. Pomona-Pitzer went undefeated (12-0-2) en route to the 2016 regular season SCIAC title and is also currently ranked No. 17 by the NSCAA. The Panthers are led by Rachel Lustig who has 10 points and four goals. Katie Bell owns three assists on the season.

By Emily Nordhoff & Young Kim
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