After winning the Big West Conference tournament, UCI headed to USC to compete in the NCAA tournament. Pomona-Pitzer served as UCI’s first obstacle, but after a 16-2 win, they seemed more of a stepping stone than a threat. Pomona-Pitzer, of course, was not to be taken lightly with a record of 21-10 coming into the tournament, as they claimed the top spot in their conference.
However, senior Allie Loomis and freshman Tara Prentice led the charge offensively as they both put up hat tricks. Junior Jenna Phreaner and freshman Morgan Jones split time in the net, each only allowing one goal, Phreaner made seven saves and Jones six. The Eaters then faced the No. 2 seeded Stanford in the quarterfinals, but fell to the Trees 14-8, ending their playoff dreams and season.
Against Stanford, the ‘Eaters struggled early, giving up the first goal 42 seconds into the opening quarter. Senior Keana Eldridge showed that UCI would not be denied when she converted on a touch pass from senior Cara Borkovec. Stanford, however, caused problems for the Anteater defense, managing four skip shot goals to give them the 5-1 lead going into the second.
The second started rather uncertainty, as Stanford added another goal in relatively quick fashion. Senior Corinna Toledo scored on a cross cage pass, similar to the goal that won them the Big West Championship in sudden death. With 6:29 left in the half, UCI trailed 6-2. Senior Natalie Seidemann chipped away at Stanford’s lead on a spinning backhand shot that lured the goalie and two defenders away from the net. UCI’s progress backslid, however, as Stanford managed three more goals in the remaining half, giving them the 9-3 lead.
The third quarter saw play slow as both teams held up well defensively. UCI held the Trees to three points in the period, but managed only one point by way of freshman Toni Shackleford, who showed some grit and fought past two defenders in center to earn the point. Shackleford was one of a number of freshman who gained invaluable postseason experience in the tournament. “Having seven seniors on the team helped a lot,” Shackleford said. “They really helped mentor us to understand our roles, especially as the season went on.” Shackleford is one of 12 freshmen on UCI’s roster. Some of the team’s inexperience was made evident in the first three quarters, but the fourth proved that regardless of age, all of these girls had heart.
Stanford, though still intense, was not coming on as strong as they may have been to begin the game, but the Trees were certainly still dangerous as they opened the quarter with a goal just 25 seconds in to take the 13-4 lead. Right after, freshman Danielle Ayala showed that the ‘Eaters weren’t done yet, scoring on the powerplay just another 20 seconds later. Less than a minute later, Cara Borkovec showed that the ‘Eaters still had some fight in them with a bullet from deep center to make the game 13-6.
Stanford added another before Seidemann scored her last goal as an Anteater. It came from a beauty of a spinning backhand, her second of the game. “I’m thankful for the last three minutes I got to play with my best friends,” Seidemann reflected. “I’m thankful for all of the people, Dan and the other coaches who helped make us better.”
Senior Julie Swieca and Loomis then made their last contributions as well. On the powerplay, Loomis whipped a pass and Swieca capitalized, bringing the final score to 14-8.
The season was hard-fought and noteworthy, as they finished with a 15-14 overall standing, eliminated in the quarterfinals of the national tournament.