NORTH HOLLYWOOD — For the first 30 minutes of Monday evening's pivotal Mission League match between the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team and host Harvard-Westlake, the teams went back and forth to the tune of a scoreless stalemate.
But over the last 10 minutes of the opening half, the Wolverines took a decisive edge and a two-goal blitz in a two-minute span turned the match for good, as Harvard-Westlake handed the Tologs their first loss of the season with a 3-0 victory.
“I think we lost our focus a few times in the last 10 minutes,” Tologs Coach Cesar Hidalgo said. “We’ve done that before this season and it’s something we’ve been working on.
“[The Wolverines] capitalized on their opportunities.”
Any previous opportunities for Harvard-Westlake (11-1-3, 3-0-1 in league), which is ranked third in the latest CIF Southern Section Division I poll, came one last touch short of producing goals, much less shots, before a scrum in front of the Tologs net in the 38th minute saw Catherine Gores swing a pass left to Courtney O’Brien, who had a golden opportunity that she put away with an open, low shot for a 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines sprang for more against a noticeably depleted Tologs squad (10-1-2, 2-1), scoring just a minute later when MacKenzie Howe crossed to a wide-open Gores, who drilled home a 2-0 lead just a few ticks before halftime.
“After that first goal, we definitely put our heads down right away and they took advantage of that,” Tologs junior Laura Thompson said.
It was the sixth straight shutout for Harvard-Westlake, which has never lost to Sacred Heart at home. It was also a season-high in goals allowed for the Tologs, ranked 10th in the division.
“We just weren’t up to par today,” Thompson said. “I think if we would’ve come out stronger and more mentally tough, we could’ve come back.”
Thompson did lead a bit of a comeback attempt in the second half, notching her team’s first three second-half shots. But for as good as Harvard-Westlake was on the day, Sacred Heart was just as unlucky.
Three phenomenal chances went awry for the Tologs in the second half.
The first came from Thompson, who took a pinpoint pass from senior Krista Meaglia on the right side and unleashed a hard, low shot that bounced off the far post and right back to Harvard-Westlake goalie Jackie Ridgely, who had five saves — four in the second half. The keeper dove unsuccessfully to stop Thompson’s shot, but, while still on the ground, was in the right place to collect the rebound.
“We definitely did have some really good shots,” Thompson said. “I just think that those were unlucky.”
In the 62nd minute, the Wolverines essentially put the game away when Tologs goalie Dani Garcia made a splendid diving save, but O’Brien booted home the rebound.
Despite the three goals given up — all of them coming on shots that likely couldn’t have been saved — Garcia turned in an excellent game, making eight saves.
Sacred Heart’s second terrific opportunity came when senior Kayla Mills, who played well on both sides of the ball, deftly weaved through three defenders before unleashing a laser from five yards out that Ridgely deflected away, looking as if she was defending herself as much as trying to make a save.
Following that, Tologs senior midfielder Sarah Teegarden set up for a shot from just inside the 13-yard line that bounced off the crossbar.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky to be a champion,” Hidalgo said.
Sacred Heart will need to change its luck in a hurry as Monday was the start of a week that’s as pivotal as it is arduous. The Tologs will now host Notre Dame (1-2 in league) on Wednesday before hosting Chaminade (2-0-1) on Friday.
“I definitely think we have to learn from this game,” Thompson said. “We have to come back strong right away.”