Marina High girls' soccer coach Heath Oberle said he believes that Los Alamitos is the team to beat in the Sunset League.
The Vikings did not beat the visiting Griffins in Thursday's league game at Marina, but they did compete with them for 80 minutes.
It was just after that 80-minute mark, though, when Los Alamitos got the winning goal.
Freshman Tabitha LaParl scored on a straightaway free kick from 25 yards out in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. Moments later, Los Alamitos escaped with a 2-1 victory to stay in outright first place in league.
The Griffins (19-2-1, 3-0-1 in league) were able to celebrate after LaParl buried the free kick into the upper left corner. The ball brushed off the inside part of the crossbar.
"It's a testament to [LaParl]," Los Alamitos coach Pat Rossi said. "She stays after practice to work on that."
It was a game of missed opportunities for Marina (14-3-3, 2-2-0), which lost for the second time in league this week after falling at Huntington Beach 4-1 on Tuesday.
The Vikings, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 2, had a goal by freshman Kaitlyn Paculba called back in the 11th minute against Los Alamitos, the No. 2 team in Division 1. Sophomore defender Lori Mandarino played the ball ahead to Paculba, who split two defenders. Paculba tapped the ball past drawn-out Los Alamitos goalkeeper Sophia Reddy at the top of the box, but she was called offside.
Oberle loudly protested the call, as well as the lack of one when Paculba appeared to be taken down from behind in the box twice, once in each half. No penalty kicks were awarded.
"That was frustrating, but I told the girls that if we do our job on the field, the referee doesn't get to affect the game," Oberle said. "We've got to do our job."
Los Alamitos took a 1-0 halftime lead after sophomore Macee Okey scored a rebound goal in the 40th minute. Marina junior keeper Bella Carver made a kick save, but the ball bounced right to Okey in the box.
Marina nearly tied the score in the 45th minute, but senior captain Erika Sosa's shot from the right side of the box hit square off the crossbar. The Vikings would still get even in the 70th minute on an own goal.
Los Alamitos' Deepika Kooner and Marina's Cameryn Cordell both went up for a header at the top of the box off a free kick. Kooner got her head on it, but it looped back into the Griffins' goal.
Los Alamitos didn't stay down for long, though.
"We kept pushing," Rossi said. "They kept their heads [after the own goal]."
Oberle called Carver, who made eight saves, the player of the match for the Vikings. She saved a goal in the first half, diving to her right to deflect a shot wide of the net. After the match, her teammates sang happy birthday to Carver, who turned 17 on Thursday.
Marina resumes league play on Tuesday with a home match against Newport Harbor at 3 p.m.
"It's literally a game of inches," Oberle said. "They were on the fortunate side of the margins today, but we competed … [This game] is definitely something we can build off, for sure."