Sudden loss ends Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer’s greatest season

LA CAÑADA – It was the most glorious of seasons for the Flintridge Prep girls' soccer team.

And it was the most unforgiving of conclusions for the Rebels.


With a relentless rain darkening the sky and drenching the field, Academy of Our Lady of Peace junior standout Erin Healy delivered the first shot of the night and the last of the season.

Both shots found the back of the net, the latter coming just more than five minutes into overtime, as third-seeded Our Lady of Peace emerged from a dramatic CIF Southern California Division III Regional Championship with a 3-2 sudden-victory overtime win over Flintridge Prep at St. Francis High's Friedman Field on Saturday night.

"To end the season like this is unfortunate because they accomplished so much," Rebels coach Esteban Chavez said. "But this is part of the game."

A season ago, both teams fell in the Division III SoCal Regional semifinals, but on Saturday collided in a championship classic as the Rebels (26-5-2) and the Pilots (24-1-2) battled for 85 minutes and 25 seconds under a downpour that carried on from warm-ups through the postgame awards ceremony without pause.

"I'm still in disbelief. Unbelievable," Pilots coach Kevin Soares said of the game. "It's the state championship, though, so I guess that's how it should be."

Winners of 22 games in a row, including a first-ever CIF Southern Section Division III championship, Flintridge Prep's vaunted offense found rhythm at times, but never the back of the net as junior Mika Celeste scored both goals for the Rebels, one via penalty kick and the other on a free kick.

Trailing, 1-0, after Healy scored in the sixth minute on the first shot of the contest, Flintridge Prep fell behind by two goals when senior Ashlin Healy booted in a low shot that came to fruition following a free kick from junior Rylie Curran in the 55th minute.

Fortune was bleak for the Rebels until a penalty kick was granted following a hand ball in the box. Celeste proved clutch in the 57th minute and just three minutes later unleashed a laser of a 28-yard free kick to tie the match and send the umbrella-clad Flintridge Prep faithful into a frenzy.

However, it was the Pilots who scored last, claiming the regional championship and stopping the Rebels' greatest season short of a triple crown following Prep League and Southern Section titles.

It was the 12th straight win for the Pilots, who ended the Rebels' 22-game winning streak, which is tied for the sixth-longest in CIF Southern Section history. Flintridge Prep finished the season with 164 goals, the fourth-highest total in Southern Section chronicle, and matched a season-high scored against OLP, which allowed just 14 goals on the year.

"The best season in history," Celeste said. "The only thing that could've been better is if we would've won this, but we battled to the end.

"This team is special."

Flintridge Prep was the first area team to advance to a regional final since Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in 2011 and was looking to become the first to win once since Flintridge Sacred Heart won in 2010. But on a dreary Saturday night it wasn't meant to be.

Pushed back to a 6 p.m. start instead of the standard 4 p.m., the rain was at its worst and clearly had a negative effect on the overall play of the game, especially passing. However, nobody for the Rebels used the weather as an excuse.

"We played a good game," Rebels junior defender Yasmeen White said. "It just didn't go our way."

After taking a 1-0 lead, OLP lost the possession battle for the remainder of the first half, as the Rebels outshot the Pilots, 5-2, in the opening half.

Seemingly getting used to the field as much as possible, the Rebels began to find their game, but Pilots goalie Grace Kotnik made five saves and also snuffed out two golden opportunities in which Rebels junior forward Helen Schaefer played balls up to senior forward Julia Gonzalez, who had a step on her defenders but was beaten to the ball by the goalie.

However, nobody was closer to a goal than White, who boomed a 50-yard shot that the goalie dropped after an outstretched catch. The ball dropped behind the goalie, but a defender quickly kicked it away.

"Coach told us at halftime that was one of the best halves we've played all season," Celeste said.

The second half was more evenly played and when the Pilots took a 2-0 advantage it seemed all hope was lost for the Rebels before Celeste's heroics.

"She came up big," Chavez said.

The second half was as wild as it was wet with the teams combining for 22 shots, with Flintridge Prep finishing with 13 and OLP tallying 16. Rebels goalie Lindsey Uteda made nine of her 10 saves in the second half, many of them spectacular, including leaping high to punch away a shot, catching it, dropping it and regaining possession.

The three second-half goals came in a span of five minutes with OLP taking a 2-0 advantage in the 55th minute before Celeste finally broke through on the PK in the 57th.

"I stepped up to take it because I knew I could put it away," Celeste said.

Her ensuing free kick made it a brand new ballgame, but one in which OLP began to dominate.

"When we got up by two goals, I think we got the least little bit complacent and you can't do that," Soares said. "Then we got our focus back."

And any time one of the Healys had the ball, danger seemed at hand for the Rebels.

As the game transferred to overtime, only one final shot was taken with 9:35 on the scoreboard.

And at the foot of Erin Healy, lay the conclusion of the finest Flintridge Prep soccer season there has ever been.

"This was a great season. We made history for Flintridge Prep," White said. "No matter what, we're all champions."

Twitter: @TCNGrantGordon