Dealing with injuries and a young team early in the season has meant that the Huntington Beach High girls’ soccer team has taken its lumps.
The Oilers came into Thursday’s action at the prestigious Excalibur Tournament of Champions knowing they had a quarterfinal date with a Tesoro side that Huntington Beach had lost to once and tied once already this season.
The third time was the charm for the Oilers, who backed up their 1-0 victory over Tesoro with a 1-0 win against Foothill in the tournament semifinals Thursday night at SilverLakes Sports Complex.
Huntington Beach (8-4-3) is in the title game of the 24-team tournament for the first time in coach Raul Ruiz’s five-year tenure. The Oilers will play Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos, a 1-0 victor over rival Los Alamitos in the other semifinal, in the championship game at noon Friday at SilverLakes.
Junior Delaney Brennan scored the game-winner for the Oilers in the semifinals in the 57th minute. It was the result of a nice build-up. Xolani Hodel had a give-and-go with Summer Stewart, before Hodel crossed the ball in from the right.
Junior Alex Lotter had the assist, a backward touch to Brennan in the box.
“I tried to slot it, because usually I hit it over,” Brennan said. “I just passed it in … We’re usually out in bracket play. It means a lot [to make the Excalibur Tournament of Champions final]. It’s a really competitive tournament and it shows that we’re a really good program.”
The Oilers defense of Brianna Barnes, Kekoa Nelson, Alyssa Hornback and Maddie Phantumabamrung kept Foothill at bay, despite some corner kicks in the final minutes. Sophomore goalie Chloe Romney made four saves.
“Little by little, we’re getting everybody back healthy,” said Ruiz, who has Barnes (knee) in action for the first time this season. “Finally, we’re getting all of the pieces together. We have a great, young group of girls. I think the more experience we have, the better. I’m proud of my girls, and now they want more, which is great.”
The Oilers survived a chippy quarterfinal game against Tesoro. Sophomore forward Cina Wilson, on the mend from a bruised sternum, scored her third goal in as many tournament games in the 31st minute. Hodel played the ball ahead to Stewart, who shot it from the right side of the box.
Tesoro goalie Maddie Hogue was there to make the save at the right post, but Wilson easily stuck in the rebound goal. All three of the players involved in the build-up were sophomores for the young Oilers.
“It’s fun, because I also went to middle school with them,” said Wilson, who went to Dwyer Middle School, of the Oilers’ talented sophomore class. “I’ve been playing with them throughout middle school and high school, so it’s fun to have that same group.”
Huntington Beach hung on in a wild second half that included multiple yellow cards as well as a brief verbal altercation between one of the two referees and a Tesoro fan.
“We were focused and we kept our composure,” Ruiz said.
The Oilers did lose senior starting goalie Paige Dispalatro late in the first half, after a collision in the box with Tesoro’s Audrey Jeltema. Ruiz said that Dispalatro, who has dealt with shoulder and finger injuries this preseason, was hit in the right eye.
Ruiz subbed in Romney to finish the game.