LOS ANGELES — It had been nearly a month since the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team stepped on to the pitch.
But the Tologs returned to action Wednesday to face Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in the teams’ Mission League opener at Occidental College.
Flintridge Sacred Heart had its chances early and Notre Dame briefly crept its way into the Tologs’ third in the latter stages of the first half, but both teams came away empty-handed at the break.
Luckily for Flintridge Sacred Heart, it came out in the second half and scored twice, with goals from sophomore Helena Locateli and senior Hillary Howard, as the Tologs opened up league with a 2-0 victory over Notre Dame.
“We just wanted the girls to really start connecting on their passes,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart assistant coach Ruben Viola, who took over sideline management as head coach Mark Snashall departed at the half for a school booster meeting. “Notre Dame is a good team. We just have to get the bugs out of them right now. We haven’t played enough games.
“They needed the goal just to get their confidence going. It was more of just getting the confidence going because if we could get one, we could get more.”
The Tologs (6-1) opened up the second half with an immediate impact, as Locateli gave Flintridge Sacred Heart the 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute with a strike from outside the penalty box. On the shot, Knights goalkeeper Danielle Tedesco got a hand on the ball, but wasn’t able to grasp the strong shot and saw the ball end up in the back of the net.
Following the goal, the Knights (3-2-9) woke up and intensified their pressure over the Tologs, ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division II, as the visitors dominated possession in the host’s final third for the next 10 minutes.
Flintridge Sacred Heart junior goalkeeper Joshlyn Aguirre and the Tologs back line absorbed much of the pressure and came away with just one shot attempted on goal.
“In the first half, we were doing well, but since it was our first [league] game of the season, we had to get out the jitters,” Locateli said. “I think in the second half, we really pulled together and connected as a team.”
In the 78th minute, Tologs senior Lauren Bolte laid off a short pass to Howard, who flicked the ball toward the top left corner of the goal as Tedesco was off her line for the host’s second goal and a 2-0 advantage.
“We switched our formation in the first part of the second half, and I think that really helped,” Howard said. “We all really worked hard and grouped together well. I thought we closed with a good goal, and I thought, as a team, we played really well and are moving forward in the right direction.”
Tedesco, who was bumped up from junior varsity for her first varsity game with the Knights’ two starting goalkeepers out for personal reasons, registered seven saves.
The Tologs’ first real opportunity came in the 22nd minute on a corner kick launched by senior Emily Gomez that connected with sophomore Allison Risha, whose header sailed wide.
After a long-range strike from Locateli was saved by Tedesco, the Knights battled back and built momentum midway into the first half, enjoying possession in the host’s side of the field for three minutes.
Flintridge Sacred Heart regained its footing in the final 10 minutes of the half with a pair of shots from Gomez from outside the penalty area, both of which were saved by Tedesco.
Locateli nearly gave the Tologs the lead two minutes before halftime when she drove into the left side of the penalty box on an attempt. But her strike hit the top right post and out bounced away.