COSTA MESA — Sammy Pickell of Harbor Day School was all alone in the goal Sunday afternoon, the game was on the line.
A shootout was deciding this third- and fourth-grade girls’ gold division championship game, and Pickell had a chance to be a hero.
She’d already done it earlier that morning, as Harbor Day emerged with a semifinal shootout victory over seven-time division champion Andersen. Now, the finals were also going to penalties. A lot of pressure on the fourth grader, but Pickell came up huge again.
She stuck her right leg out to block Mariners’ fourth penalty shot, preserving a 3-1 shootout win after Harbor Day and Mariners played to a 2-2 tie in regulation. Her teammates rushed her, chanting her name — “Sammy! Sammy!” — and Pickell soaked it all in.
“I never really expect [to stop a penalty kick],” she said. “I just try my best and try to get it, no matter what.”
Sabrina DiGiovanni, Kate Montgomery and Kate Briggs converted penalty kicks for Harbor Day, helping the team earn a 3-0 lead in the penalty kicks before Mariners’ Ashley Young could convert.
Regulation was back and forth. Harbor Day clung to a 1-0 halftime lead behind a goal from Kate Montgomery, but Mariners knotted it midway through the second half as McKenna Carroll found the back of the net.
DiGiovanni scored with seven minutes left in the game, but it was anything but in the bag. Mariners’ Scout Farmer came back in the very next minute to score.
“When they scored and we tied, I was like, ‘Anything can happen,’ ” Pickell said. “I was just hoping our team would score or do their best.”
Both goalies played extremely well in the game. Claire Covina ended with 14 saves for Mariners, and Pickell had 16 for Harbor Day.
Mariners Coach Mingo Lee was diplomatic after the game.
“Unfortunately it comes down to PKs in soccer, and they had our number today,” Lee said. “Harbor Day played well. I think both teams deserved to be here in the final, but at the end of the day, there’s only one trophy.”
Raleigh Garner and Skylar Alexander played tenacious defense for Harbor Day, which featured all fourth-grade players. They had made it to the semifinals last year as third-graders before losing to Andersen.
“Whenever someone comes at you, you just have to try to stop it, no matter what,” Garner said.
Christina Davenport, Holly Kanen, Amanda Corlett and Caroline Taketa also contributed for the winners. Taketa was one of three players, also including Garner and DiGiovanni, who made penalty kicks in the semifinal shootout win over Andersen.
Harbor Day also played scrappy, with just one substitute.
In the end, a great goalie would take the team plenty far.
“[Mariners] had a lot of shots,” Montgomery said. “But [Pickell] blocked them.”