NEWPORT COAST — Sage Hill School's second soccer match against St. Margaret's began like the first one.
Once again, the Lightning fell behind their rivals by two goals.
During halftime, Coach Andrew May warned his Tartans about what happened the last time they were in this situation against Sage Hill.
Three weeks ago, the Lightning rallied late to tie host St. Margaret's and force overtime.
Sage Hill Coach Ignacio Cid said he didn't remind his players about the last meeting. The Lightning remembered how close they came to upsetting the Tartans back then.
If they planned to be the first team to beat St. Margaret's in Academy League play, the Lightning had to rally again in the second half.
They got within one goal after Jack Percival converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute.
Then in the waning minutes of Friday's matchup, the Lightning twice came close to getting the equalizer. The first shot off a header went wide and then the second shot off a foot soared over the crossbar.
The Tartans closed it out with a late goal to win, 3-1, and remain perfect in league and in first place.
Cid expects the Tartans to stay atop the league because St. Margaret's has handled every league opponent. The team that gave the defending champion Tartans (14-4-3, 6-0-0 in league) their biggest scare was Sage Hill (6-5-0, 5-2-0).
The Lightning came close the first time in the league opener.
The second time around, they just couldn't put away that second goal to force another overtime.
The Tartans, ranked ninth in the CIF Southern Section Division VI poll, ended Sage Hill's five-game winning streak.
"They gave if it a heck of a run in the second half," Cid said of his players. "We were pressing them and we had some good looks. It just didn't go our way."
The first half definitely didn't favor Sage Hill. Cid said his team was to blame.
The Lightning fell behind, 1-0, before fans settled into the bleachers. Luis Ceballos found the back of the net with a header.
Then midway through the first half, David Field dribbled deep in the box before unleashing a goal toward the far post. The Lightning were in a hole and Cid at halftime explained to his team why that was the case.
"I just kind of said that they were giving it away," Cid said. "We were lucky to just get out [down] 2-0."
The young Tartans, who start six sophomores and one freshman, appeared in control. Their only mistake came early in the second half.
Two defenders took down Sage Hill's Kavi Sakraney, who had the ball near the byline. Sakraney drew a penalty kick, which Percival took.
Percival beat the keeper with a shot to the right. He ran into the goal and retrieved the ball before letting it go at midfield.
Percival was the one who sparked Sage Hill's comeback the last time against St. Margaret's. That match was also the season debut for Percival, who sat out the first four nonleague matches with a knee injury.
The senior wasn't 100% Friday. Cid said one of Percival's quadriceps bothered him and it showed. Percival limped around at times, but he kept playing.
The striker was still a threat and the Tartans focused on stopping him, opening it up for other Sage Hill players.
Sakraney was one of those players. The sophomore dribbled into the box before a defender knocked him down. The referee didn't give the Lightning another penalty kick, just a corner kick, which Cid said he understood because the foul wasn't worth a PK.
On the corner kick, Cole Kirby and had a quality scoring chance for Sage Hill.
Kirby got his head on Will Burns' corner kick in the 75th minutes, but the ball went wide of the near post.
A couple of minutes later, Kirby tried to set up Dakshin Jandhyala inside the box. He flicked the ball to Jandhyala, who struck it too high and there went Sage Hill's best shot at first place in league.
"It would take two shockers [against St. Margaret's], not just one shocker," said Cid, referring to Sage Hill's chances of finishing in a tie for first with the Tartans, as each team has three and four league matches left, respectively.