St. Margaret's girls' soccer coach Johnny Marmelstein fancies the Tartans as a second-half team this season, but it has little to do with the effort of his players.
Rather, it's the amount of pressure that St. Margaret's puts on opponents, who may be able to hold that pressure off for a half before the Tartans put the game out of reach after the intermission.
"Teams play us, and they know the pressure's coming," Marmelstein said. "For a half, maybe they can sustain it. But to do that for a whole game, it wears on you mentally and it wears on you physically."
That pattern remained true Friday night, and it allowed St. Margaret's to earn its biggest Academy League win yet. The first-place Tartans scored three times in the second half of a 4-0 win over rival Sage Hill at St. Margaret's, staying perfect in league with six matches remaining.
Junior midfielder Ella Kang had a goal and two assists for St. Margaret's (9-4-0, 4-0-0 in league), which has outscored its first four league opponents by a combined 28-0.
Scoring chances came few and far between for a young Sage Hill side (6-5-0, 2-2-0), which has just two active seniors on its roster in UCLA-bound senior forward Taylor Magliarditi and senior forward Ashton Carroll. St. Margaret's spent nearly the whole first half on the Lightning side of the field.
"To be honest, I thought we played pretty well," Sage Hill coach Mike Hammond said. "They had two great goals, and two where we just lost marks. Players are going to make mistakes, but overall, I can't fault the effort. We're not the strongest, physically strong team like that team. They're an athletically gifted team … it's just hard for us to keep up with a team like that."
Newport Beach resident Lauren Otterbein, a junior who wears No. 16, got the Tartans on the scoreboard in the 16th minute. She took Kang's cross from the right, taking her time near the top of the box before perfectly placing a shot into the right corner.
Sage Hill junior forward Olivia Lowe and freshman Grace Robinson-Dorn had decent chances in the opening minutes of the first half, the former created on a pass from Magliarditi. But nothing really materialized. St. Margaret's, ranked No. 7 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, would go on to score three more times in the second half.
"Magliarditi was dangerous whenever she got the ball, but we just didn't have the help up there with her," Hammond said.
Freshman Bryce Chan scored on Kang's cross in the 45th minute, then senior Lauren McCaffrey netted an unassisted goal from a tough angle on the left in the 53rd minute. Kang completed the scoring for the hosts, taking a short pass from Charlotte Jones in the 58th minute and burying the shot from the right side of the box.
The Tartans kept Sage Hill junior goalie Michelle Hung busy all night. Hung, a tennis standout in her first year playing goalkeeper for the girls' soccer team, made nine saves. Most of the Lightning defense was also made up of juniors, players like Hannah Woodworth, Maya Jaffe and Karli Davis, as well as sophomore Brooke Avedisian.
Sage Hill continues Academy League play Tuesday at 5 p.m., at home against Oxford Academy.