CLAREMONT, Calif. – On Saturday afternoon, senior Emily Cassell (CMC) scored her only goal of her senior year, and it may have been one of the most important goals in Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women soccer's history. With Cassell's lone goal, the Athenas (17-5-1) won 1-0 to hand Pacific Lutheran University (16-1-4) their first loss of the season and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. This victory marks the fourth win in the Athenas' NCAA Tournament record, and the first time since 2009 where they advanced past the first round.
The game was a physical and gritty affair for both teams, as the defenses stepped up to deny each other quality looks at the net. The two teams combined for only three shots on goal, two of which belonged to the Athenas. Senior Kelly McConnell (HMC) recorded only one save, but played a key role in preserving the team's 10th shutout of the season by reading several dangerous crosses and breaking up through passes in the box.
Two minutes into the opening half, Cassell moved up to support the attack and received a pass in the offensive end. With plenty of open space from several feet outside the box, the senior, at the urging of her teammates, took a curling shot towards the top right corner. The ball dipped underneath the post and into the back of the net to give CMS the 1-0 lead.
The Lutes struggled to string passes in the offensive end and tried to force crosses into the Athenas' box, but McConnell read them easily to deny the Lutes from finding the net. The senior displayed the kind of composure the Athenas needed in a major playoff game, as her presence and ability to read the game kept Pacific Lutheran at bay.
Pacific Lutheran showed more aggressive on offense in the second half, but the Athenas' defense continued where they left off and neutralized the Lutes' attack. Junior Jacey Coniff (HMC) and senior Wren Osler (CMC) proved to be a disruptive force as the Athenas played more conservatively. The usual up-tempo Lutes struggled to play their game, as the Athenas stuck with their adjustments to hold onto the victory.
The Athenas will play conference rival Pomona-Pitzer in the second round tomorrow at 1 pm. This match will mark the third time this season the two teams have faced off. CMS lost the last two meetings, taking a tough 3-2 loss in their first meeting on Sept. 14 and falling 1-0 in double overtime on Oct. 8. The two teams did not play each other during the SCIAC Tournament as the Sagehens fell to Chapman in the opening round, and the Athenas will use this match as an opportunity to avenge their earlier losses and earn bragging right as the best team on Sixth Street.
By Young Kim
Sports Information Assistant
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