Captain Whitney Vance was one of four Santa Monica try-scorers.
Santa Monica is looking for its third consecutive DI Pacific South title, and started the campaign with a 38-12 win over Belmont Shore. The teams traded tries in the first half, with the Dolphins leading 17-12. Santa Monica leaned on its fitness to pull away in the second 40 and dotted down three more tries while holding Belmont Shore scoreless.
“Overall, we are a really athletic team and we’ve been playing together for a few years,” said Santa Monica coach Erica Sin. “We have a lot of team chemistry, and that’s a big part of our success.”
The first half was a try-trading affair. Santa Monica established a 12-0 lead after captain and outside center Whitney Vance scored and converted the opener, and Lucy Tin got the first of her three tries. Tin’s second try split up Belmont Shore’s two scores for the 17-12 halftime scoreline.
“We made some defensive adjustments in the second half and put a lot of pressure on them,” Sin said. “In general, we’re smaller than most teams, and because of that, our strength is always going to be in running the opposition around as much as possible. We’re a fit team and were able to spread their defense and break through.”
Santa Monica controlled the second half, with halfbacks Emily Birdwhistell and Sarah Harris directing the offense, and Jacqueline Davisson leading the pack attack. The ample possession allowed Hannah Han, Alex Walker and Tin scored in the second half.
There are only four teams in the league, and so teams play each twice before playoffs. Santa Monica wants to get back to DI nationals and improve on last year’s showing. The Dolphins won their quarterfinal against Houston 45-29, and then dropped a 47-0 semifinal the following day to eventual champion Seattle.
“That was a challenge,” Sin thought on the Saracens. “Seattle’s an incredible team. We realized we have our work cut out for us if we want to play at that level again.
“We’re a very defensively minded team, and we want to be able to maintain that as much as possible, even against teams like Seattle,” Sin added. “Keeping a strong line and coming up together – that’s a really big emphasis for us. If we do that and maintain continuity in our game, I know we can do better.”
Sin is optimistic about this year’s team and is eager to see what competition Tempe lends this weekend. The Arizona side has improved since 2015 and beat Las Vegas 38-5 on Saturday. The undefeated teams play each other in Arizona this Saturday, while Belmont Shore and Las Vegas face off.