By Jackie Finlan
The biggest game of the season is about to go down in Southern California's women's DII college, as league leader Claremont takes on CSU Fullerton this Sunday. Whoever wins will (essentially) get the seed to nationals.
"There is perfect symmetry in playing our first regular season game against Fullerton and now our last," Claremont president Lily Wiggins reflected on the team's 7-5 loss early in the season, "though this time we intend to win. One of the main differences between our first meeting with Fullerton and now is that we are much more comfortable playing with one another and, needless to say, have much more experience. "
Wiggins contends that the two teams match well physically, but that Claremont has evolved into a smarter, cleaner squad since the teams' January game.
"What can often happen out on the pitch, especially in a game of this magnitude, is that players get frazzled, resulting in messy and unsafe play," Wiggins explained. "One thing that has been an extremely noticeable improvement is our ability to keep our calm and prevent perilous play. We all have good heads on our shoulders and our previous games have been a testament to the fact that we work well together. When we are out on the pitch we all have the same mindset and are communicating constantly with one another."
USC has caused both teams some trouble in the waning weaks of league, with Claremont just beating the Trojans 15-12 and Fullerton escaping with a 17-12 victory last weekend. Still, the two manage to bank the wins, and Sunday's game is just the start of a tougher road ahead.
"We're extremely pumped up for this Sunday's match against CSUF," Wiggins said. "We feel as strong as ever coming off of a huge win last weekend against University of Arizona, scoring seven tries on them. We have improved so much since we first played Fullerton, our forwards have found their footing in the scrums and our backline has continued to rack up the points by using our speed to our advantage."
If there's a tie, if Fullerton wins without the bonus point, or if Claremont earns a bonus-point loss, then CSUF's remaining game against Occidental will be important. Sort of. Oxy hasn't come close to winning a game this season, so the main scenario stands: whoever wins Sunday, most likely moves onto nationals.