TORRANCE — The Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team was in complete control until the second half kicked off in a CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinal match Tuesday against South Torrance.
The ball seemed to bounce right in every way for the Tologs, as they took a three-goal lead against the division’s No. 2 seed at halftime.
But a chippy start to the second half whittled the lead down to two, then to one, as the Tologs tried to settle down.
The rally wasn’t enough, however, and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy was able to shut down South Torrance in the final 20 minutes to earn a 3-2 quarterfinal victory and advance to the Division III semifinal.
The Tologs (11-4-3; second in Mission League) will face league rival Sherman Oaks Notre Dame or Downey in a semifinal match Saturday at a time and site to be determined.
“These girls are very disciplined,” Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy assistant coach Savannah Viola said. “They know the mindset that no game is ever easy. Every game is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be important no matter what and they came out, showed up and played awesome.”
Viola took over the coaching duties in Torrance with head coach Mark Snashall out of town on a business trip.
“We knew South was going to come out swinging first and second half, but our girls kept their composure and they went into the game being confident,” Viola said. “Not overconfident, but they knew that it was going to be a tough game and they just pulled through.”
Tologs sophomore Madison Leroy and senior Jillian Willis both scored a goal and added assists in the first half and junior Lauren Bolte scored a goal.
The Spartans (21-8; third place in Pioneer League) capitalized on the unsettled Tologs in the second half with a goal in the 48th minute off the shoulder of junior Skyler Briggs.
South Torrance continued its pressure and grabbed a second goal nine minutes later from junior Alyssa Lubba.
“It’s difficult to get everyone in the mindset of not winning 3-0 because when we get into that mindset then we start to get overconfident and kind of drop all over the place,” Willis said. “We were just trying to get every one [to think] we’re at 0-0 and we’re not winning right now, so then everyone is at their potential at that time.”
After a flurry of early chances in the first half, Willis dispossessed the Spartans in their third of the field and found Leroy, who dribbled down the right wing to score the opening goal in the 22nd minute.
“[There was] a lot of movement, especially with Jill and I,” Leroy said. “We worked really well together to make diagonal runs off of each other and to make those little split passes behind each other.
“It’s just all in our movement and the effort we were putting into it to work together.”
Four minutes later, Leroy ran down the middle and sent a ball out wide left for Bolte to work her way in the box for a goal that put the Tologs up 2-0.
Willis capped a convincing first half with the Tologs’ third goal with an assist from junior Hillary Howard in the 38th minute for a 3-0 advantage.
“I think the movement from shifting to side-to-side really worked to our advantage because their defensive line kind of got thrown off,” Willis said. “We watched film and we understood that we could take advantage of those wide players and that’s what we tried to do.
“I know in the first 10 minutes, we had four crosses, consecutively, but, unfortunately, none of our players were in the box to capitalize on those opportunities. But just recognizing what they were doing really helped us.”