Author: Tim O’Donnell
The SCIAC schedule-makers wasted no time throwing the Occidental women’s lacrosse team (0-2 overall, 0-2 SCIAC) into the fire. The new-look Tigers, coming off an NCAA tournament bid, opened their season against their two biggest rivals, Redlands and Pomona-Pitzer. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they dropped both games, 13-7 and 10-7, respectively. But both players and coaches took away positives from the week, most notably first-year Shai Goodman’s back-to-back hat tricks in her first two collegiate games.
On Wednesday against Redlands, the Tigers and Bulldogs locked into a back-and-forth battle early on. Redlands got off to a quick 2-0 start, before Rebecca Reese (junior) put the Tigers on the board. The goal seemed to ignite the Occidental attack, which rattled off three straight goals to push the lead to 4-2. But the momentum stalled suddenly, and the Bulldogs poured in six straight goals before the half.
“Our shooting still needs to improve, and making sure our hard work shows up on the scoreboard is something that is missing right now,” head coach Stephanie Janice-Mark said.
The Tigers managed to claw their way back into the game in the second half, cutting the lead to two, but Redlands bore down defensively in the final minutes before pulling away to a 13-7 victory.
The offensive struggles carried over to Saturday’s game against the Sagehens — in the first half, at least. The Tigers fell behind 4-0 and trailed 6-2 at the half, but Goodman netted two goals early in the second period, and senior Mackenzie Wright’s goal in the 19th minute capped a ferocious Tiger comeback to tie the game at six. Reese then put the Tigers up 7-6.
The lead was short-lived as the Sagehens settled down and scored the final four goals of the game. But the second half proved that the Tigers are more than capable of producing offensively.
“Positives from our first two games would be the team’s ability to fight back to get into the game,” Janice-Mark said. “The team’s spirit and competitiveness are two aspects which will take us far this season.”
Occidental began this season fresh off a NCAA tournament berth, but the squad lost five seniors — four of whom garnered all-SCIAC awards. While many collegiate teams attempt to rebuild to counter such losses, the Tigers are simply reloading. The coaching staff brought in eight first years to play alongside key returnees such as 2015 SCIAC Newcomer of the Year Sierra Slack (sophomore) and seniors Brita Loeb and Alessandra Quaroni. The transition is going well, according to Loeb.
“Our first years show immense enthusiasm and dedication,” she said. “They all come from diverse areas — Connecticut, New York, Arizona, Oregon and Texas, to name a few — and carry a unique style of play … We have first years all over the field in offense, midfield and defense.”
Loeb cited goalkeeper Neah Bois (first year) as one of the newcomers to watch, and Goodman, who plays attack, is already causing a stir with her opening week performances. The New York native scored six goals (three in each game) and assisted on another.
“Stepping on the field was pretty nerve-wracking to be honest,” Goodman said. “I just wanted to make sure I was being smart with the ball and making good decisions. It was definitely special for me to open the season on a high note, especially having my family in from New York to watch the game.”
Despite the two losses, the Tigers are not panicking. The first years are continually improving and the veterans have experienced difficult situations like these before.
“I think that Saturday’s game was definitely a better showing of what we can do as a team,” Goodman said. “Our chemistry was much better and we had a real drive to come back and win. I think we need to try to keep our intensity up throughout the entire game, and work on really finishing on offense.”
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