Pepperdine Women’s Soccer Advances in NCAA Tournament

A team goal celebration 

Skylar Enge, a sophomore midfielder, booted a score in for the Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer team during the team’s victory over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits last weekend—then she ran into the waiting arms of a teammate to celebrate.

Ditto for senior forward Calista Reyes when she rocketed the ball past the Jackrabbits’ goalkeeper for her second goal of the day. 

There were plenty of hugs to go around as the Waves racked up points like the opposing goal was as wide as the Pacific Ocean, en route to their 7-1 home victory over South Dakota State on Nov. 13 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Redshirt senior Joelle Anderson, a midfielder, said her team was on point. 

“We have been working on finishing in practice, and we showed everyone what we have been working on,” she said. “I think we were just ruthless in our finishing.”

Reyes, who scored once in the first half and again in the second, said the victory was a good performance for the entire Pepperdine squad. 

“Everyone that stepped on the field did so well,” she said. “I think we are playing some of our best soccer, but I think each game we have walked away from there’s a lesson we have to take, even at this point in the season. Looking at today, we are going to look at the goal we conceded. No matter what, there are still so many plays we can look at that we can do better on.”

Pepperdine, a No. 4 seed in the postseason tournament, will face the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Friday in Tallahassee, Fla. The Wolfpack beat South Florida, 2-0, on Nov. 14 in order to face Pepperdine. The winner of the Waves and Wolfpack matchup will face the winner of the matchup between top-seeded Florida State and Southern Methodist University on Sunday, also in the Sunshine State. 

Pepperdine dominated its matchup against South Dakota State from the beginning to the end. Along with the goals by Anderson and Enge and Reyes’ two scoring kicks, Waves sophomore forward Tori Waldeck,  junior midfielder Carlee Giammona and redshirt senior forward Kelsey Hill also scored. Pepperdine rang up 21 shots, while the Jack Rabbits managed six. 

Reyes got the scoring started for the Waves in the game’s fourth minute. Waldeck, who had three assists, took a pass from Anderson, then sent it across to Reyes. She nailed the ball with her right foot and sent it into the back of the net. 

Waldeck passed the ball to Anderson around three minutes later. Anderson jumped between two Jackrabbits and kicked the ball with her left foot into the goal for her 10th goal of the year. 

Pepperdine had an incredible start to the game, head coach Tim Ward said, before he paraphrased a famous quote from boxer Mike Tyson.

“All plans go out the window when you get socked in the jaw,” he said. “We stung them a bit early. That was part of the game plan. Every coach wants to come out of the gate on fire. We did a really nice job coming out strong today.”

Waldeck took a left-footed shot in the 23rd minute that was defended by the Jackrabbits’ goalie. The ball bounced off the right post and then Giammona tapped the ball in for a score to give Pepperdine a 3-0 lead. 

Enge scored around 14 minutes later. She received the ball from redshirt senior Devyn Gilfoy before kicking it from around 25 yards out right into the back of the net. Then, five minutes before halftime, freshman forward Kelsey Adams’ shot was blocked by a group of South Dakota State defenders, but the ball landed at the foot of Hill, who scored the ball with a left-footed knock. 

Pepperdine led, 5-0, after 45 minutes of play. 

South Dakota State’s Cecilia Limongia scored the first goal of the second half with 53 minutes on the clock, but around a minute later Pepperdine struck again. Anderson passed the ball to Waldeck, who, with a hard right-footed swat, sent the ball past the Jackrabbits’ goalie for her ninth goal of the season. 

Reyes scored Pepperdine’s seventh point. She made an explosive kick from the left side of the box with her right foot after receiving a pass from redshirt junior forward Olivia Packer. The ball hit the net on the top right corner of the goal. 

Anderson said the Waves had chances to score more.

“After those first two goals, we just kept firing away,” she said. 

Pepperdine goalkeeper Zoe Clevely finished the match with four saves. The redshirt senior heads into the matchup against North Carolina State, fifth on the Pepperdine all-time list for career goalkeeper wins at 23. 

Pepperdine has qualified for the NCAA Tournament 12 times and has advanced as far as the Sweet Sixteen three times. Ward said teams that make deep runs in the 64-team event have strong substitute players and boast different tactical setups in terms of player positioning on the field.

“We have been trying to get a bit more adept at switching up shapes,” he said. “That is a little different from teams in the past, so a lot of women got minutes today. They all did beautifully. We want to stay humble and hungry.”

Seven Waves received postseason honors from the West Coast Conference two days before the triumph over South Dakota State. Anderson and Waldeck made the All-WCC first team and Giammona and senior defender Trinity Watson were named to the conference’s second team. Forward Tabitha LaParl and defender Kam Pickett were selected for the WCC All-Freshman team. Clevely was All-WCC honorable mention. 

Pepperdine heads into this weekend with a 16-3-1 record. The Waves closed the regular season with a loss at Brigham Young University (BYU) but had wins over San Francisco and Pacific before that. The Waves lost to Santa Clara and played Saint Mary’s to a draw prior to the two wins. Pepperdine, ranked 19th nationally in the regular season’s final poll, previously was on an 11-game winning streak and ranked in the top five nationally. 

Reyes called the defeats at the feet of BYU and Santa Clara painful, but noted Pepperdine had positive turnarounds from those contests.

“We didn’t let them shoot down our momentum at all, and we actually looked at the games and took them in stride as things to learn from,” she said. “As tough as those were, we keep that feeling with us and know that we don’t want to feel that again moving forward.”

Anderson said Pepperdine has national title dreams. 

“We are ready to go all the way, honestly,” she said. “We are playing some of the best soccer since I have been here, and I know we are prepared for this moment and I know we can take on anyone in the country.” 

Ward said Pepperdine’s consistent winning play this season has been remarkable. 

“We aren’t going to take our foot off the gas until it is all over,” he said.