The Mission Viejo girls' soccer team was a Southern Section Division I finalist last season, but on Thursday Mater Dei showed the Diablos how to be champions.
Mater Dei, ranked No. 4 in the county, defeated No. 3 Mission Viejo, 2-1, at Mater Dei on the opening day of South Coast League play.
Mission Viejo came out with all guns firing, but three-time defending league champion Mater Dei played consistently throughout and capitalized on its set pieces for the victory.
With the score tied, 1-1, Tracy Winzen took a corner kick for Mater Dei and Alison Fennell headed it in for the winning goal just before the first half ended.
The young Diablos seemed to run out of gas in the second half and were especially troubled by talented Mater Dei forward Katie Ticehurst, whom they had contained relatively well in the first half.
"I think some of us are still learning. We do have some players who can handle these circumstances and there are some who still need to grow a little bit," Mission Viejo Coach George Larsen said.
Mission Viejo, 11-3-2 overall, has only two seniors on its roster and one of them, first-team All-Southern Section forward Stacy Dillard, is out with an injury.
Mission Viejo out-shot Mater Dei in the first half, 5-3, and took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute after Beth Saur curled a free kick around a wall of Monarch defenders and into the upper right corner of the net.
But the Monarchs (10-2) never appeared rattled. Mater Dei tied it in the 31st minute on another set piece. Winzen sent the ball from the corner high in front of the goal, where it was flicked out to Ticehurst, perfectly positioned beyond the far post. Ticehurst volleyed it back into the net to tie the score.
"They are the three-time defending league champions and you can see why," Larsen said. "Big games are decided by set pieces. They were well-prepared and they have some great talent."
In another South Coast League game:
Capistrano Valley 4, Dana Hills 0--Goalie Shawna Draper had three saves in a shutout for second-ranked Capistrano Valley (11-2-2, 1-0). Janelle Hillseth, Renee Peterson, Elizabeth Delgado and Lindsey Greco scored the goals.