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Sage Hill girls’ soccer eliminated by South Pasadena

Sage Hill's Lexi Van den Bosch (5) nearly heads the ball in for a goal against Pacifica Christian on Jan. 7, 2020.
Sage Hill’s Lexi Van den Bosch (5) nearly heads the ball in for a goal against Pacifica Christian goalie Jo Snider in a San Joaquin League soccer match on Jan. 7, 2020.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Sage Hill School girls’ soccer team’s Cinderella run through the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs came to an end Tuesday in a 3-1 loss at South Pasadena.

The Lightning dropped the quarterfinal match after defeating San Bernardino Indian Springs in the first round and upsetting top-ranked Thermal Coachella Valley in the second round.

It was an impressive run considering the team didn’t even know if they would have a season and suffered some unforeseeable hardships because of it.

“I think we had a great season,” Sage Hill coach Mike Hammond said. “It was a tough year, and we have all the sports going at once. We have players playing a couple sports sometimes, practicing, plus playing club. It’s tough to organize a team the way you really want to organize it, but they did a great job.”

The Lightning ran into South Pasadena freshman phenom Iris Pollard, who scored twice to lead South Pasadena to the CIF semifinals. Pollard credits her multi-sport schedule for her success.

“I feel like my hard work has really paid off,” Pollard said. “Going to track practice, club [soccer], all of these practices that it’s really paying off.”

Senior Lexi Van den Bosch scored the lone Sage Hill goal, with Anisha Punia contributing the assist.

The Lightning had their fair share of offensive pressure but failed to generate chances close to goal due to the strong play of the South Pasadena defensive grouping of Ella Hoadley-Brill, Daniella Lat and Kaoruko Endo.

Sage Hill (10-4-2) struck first, midway through the opening half. Punia fed a pass that allowed Van den Bosch to strike a low, hard shot about 15 yards from the net that snuck by the dive of Tiger goalkeeper Andrea Zarazua and just inside the post for a 1-0 lead.

Van den Bosch was disappointed by the loss but proud of her team’s season.

“We were all happy to just get on the field during COVID,” she said. “We haven’t made it to the quarterfinals any of my [previous seasons]. We fought hard and did our best.”

Two minutes after Van den Bosch’s go-ahead goal, Pollard took a free-kick pass off her chest and sent it past a scrambling Lainey Cauffman, the Sage Hill goalkeeper, and into the goal to give South Pasadena the equalizer.

South Pasadena (7-0-4) took its first lead of the match in the 33rd minute. That’s when Sabrina Blumi struck a loose ball from a few yards outside the 18-yard box that arched over the head of Cauffman and into the side netting of the goal for a 2-1 South Pasadena lead.

Sage Hill maintained pressure throughout the second half, with its best opportunity coming on a Van den Bosch corner kick that deflected underneath a diving Zarazua.

In spite of the Sage Hill pressure, Pollard found a loose ball at midfield and streaked along the right sideline to pot an insurance goal for South Pasadena, bringing the score to 3-1 with under two minutes left in regulation.

South Pasadena head coach Danielle Jones admired her striker’s versatility.

“She is an explosive player,” Jones said. “She takes chances and she’ll go one-on-one with no hesitation. She’s also really great at dishing it off at the right moments so other teammates can finish, as well.”

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