The goal was more than fortunate. Off a corner kick from Laguna Beach High senior Sam Kafer, the ball bounced off the Godinez goalie at the near post and in.
Yet it was Thomas Jefferson who maybe said it best: “I’m a great believer in luck. I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."
This year’s Breakers girls’ soccer team worked extremely hard in league and it culminated in that 1-0 victory against Godinez on Feb. 4 that clinched third place in the Orange Coast League "” and a CIF Southern Section Division III playoff berth.
It’s the first time the Laguna girls have made the playoffs back-to-back years in the program’s history. After defeating Godinez by the same 1-0 score Tuesday, they finished the regular season 6-10-6 and 3-2-3 in league. Both league losses were to league-champion Calvary Chapel.
“I’m proud of them," said Coach Bill Rolfing after the Feb. 4 win. “We didn’t lose in the second round of league last year and we’re sort of on that pace again. That’s really the crunch time. You’ve got to be peaking at the right time."
Laguna is, and they showed it in that clinching game. Kafer’s corner kick came in the 76th minute.
“I knew it was the last 10 minutes of the game and we needed to score," Kafer said. “I was surprised it went in, but we’ll take it."
The Breakers nearly scored again minutes later. Alex DeGarmo’s run up the left side was followed by a cross to Kafer, who booted the ball not only over the net but through the football goal posts.
She had reason to be excited. Senior goalie Victoria Ellis helped preserve the shutout and senior captain Kelsey Peterson and Jessie Good Man also stood out with their efforts, as did sophomore Marina Paul, whose leaping header in the box nearly went in during the first half.
Ellis, who shares goalie duties with junior Ryan Bakkum, said a turning point in the season may have been a trip to the desert in late December. Laguna played Xavier College Prep, Indio and Palm Desert in a span of three days, winning two games and tying one.
“We really came together as a team," Ellis said. “We just basically got to know each other really well, and it helped our playing as a team."
Rolfing said the Breakers’ conditioning has also improved as the season has gone on, and they were finally able to better establish their passing style of game.
Paul scored the goal in Tuesday’s game, from a corner kick taken by Jenny Maddocks. Ellis (five saves) and Bakkum (eight) combined for the shutout.
Laguna will learn of its first playoff opponent when brackets are released Monday.
“We’re trying to peak right when CIF starts," Ellis said.
It was another close loss for the Breakers on Wednesday in their season finale at Godinez, as Laguna came up on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision.
A frustrating year ended with the Breakers’ record at 4-16-1 and 0-8 in league. Four of those league losses were by a single goal.
“The skill level dropped, I’d say, tremendously from last year to this year," senior captain Ian Greene said. “The majority of the team last year was from one club team, and then having a bunch of younger kids set us back. But we worked hard and kept it close every game. It wasn’t a total loss. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, either. We did what we could. We worked with what we had."
The Godinez game featured the Grizzlies mostly controlling the action, but one of Laguna’s best chances came early in the second half. A build-up went from senior Henry Ward to freshman Reece Barton to Greene, whose rocket shot nearly curved back into the left corner of the net.
The very next minute, Godinez scored in front, giving the Grizzlies all they would need.
Laguna’s defense, headed by senior sweeper Matt Anderson, junior Travis Sampson and sophomore goalie Alec Williams (11 saves), kept Godinez off the scoreboard the rest of the way. But the Breakers, playing with just one substitute, could not find an equalizer.
“We improved immensely over the season, I’d have to say," Anderson said. “Looking at how we played against Godinez and Estancia [the first time through league] compared to this time, I think we did a lot better ... [Williams] is great. He’ll definitely be a leader of this team for the next couple years."
Greene said he plans on continuing his soccer career at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.