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Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer reaches regional title match

GLENDALE — It’s certainly been an impressive postseason journey the past several weeks for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team.

Flintridge Sacred Heart isn’t through yet, and it will have an opportunity to win a regional championship for the second time in program history.

Jillian Willis scored two second-half goals, including the winning tally with about nine minutes remaining, to power second-seeded Flintridge Sacred Heart to a 3-2 home win against No. 3 Grossmont on Thursday in a CIF State Southern California Regional Division III second-round match at the Glendale Sports Complex.

Flintridge Sacred Heart (13-5-3), which suffered a 1-0 defeat to Oak Hills in the CIF Southern Section Division III championship match last Saturday, will meet No. 5 Culver City (17-7-4) in the title match at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Francis High. Culver City defeated No. 1 Oak Hills, 1-1 (4-3 on penalty kicks), Thursday in a semifinal contest.

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“It’s really an amazing feeling right now,” said Willis, a senior forward who collected three goals in the Tologs’ 7-0 opening-round win against No. 7 New West Charter on Tuesday. “It’s so surreal because we are finding ways to pull out these kind of games.

“We wanted to come back strong after the CIF loss and we’ve been able to do that. It’s another opportunity for us to win a title.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart won a Division III Regional championship in 2010 before winning the CIF Southern Section Division I crown in 2011.

Willis gave the Tologs a 3-1 lead off a pass from Helena Locateli and beat Grossmont goalkeeper Ashlyn Dean with a low shot in the 71st minute.

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Grossmont, which won the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship before turning back No. 6 Downey, 2-1, in the first round of the regionals, closed to within 3-2 about a minute later on a goal by Karlee Kennedy.

The Tologs, who took second in the Mission League, held the Foothillers at bay the remainder of the match.

“That was such a tough game,” Flintridge Sacred Heart senior midfielder Krista Celo said. “It was a very long game and we knew we had to keep at it.

“We came in expecting this to be a hard game. It’s very exciting to get a second chance at winning a title.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Madison Leroy opened the scoring in the 14th minute off a centering pass from Willis. It was Leroy’s fifth goal in the regionals.

Grossmont, which shared the Grossmont Hills League championship, tied it about 30 seconds later on a goal by Mia Foster that eluded Flintridge Sacred Heart goalkeeper Joshlyn Aguirre.

Willis made it 2-1 off an assist from Celo at the midway mark of the second half.

“In a game like this one, it came down to perseverance and motivation,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart assistant Savannah Viola, who was a member of Flintridge Sacred Heart’s title-winning squads as a player. “You have to be willing to go out there and work hard and they did that.

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“With Jillian, she’s a player who knows exactly how to close out games. She’s very smart. Now we have a shot to win the championship and we’re looking forward to it.”

Flintridge Sacred Heart lost Leroy, a sophomore midfielder, to an apparent head injury with about 13 minutes left in the first half. Leroy had an ice pack applied to her head and didn’t return. It wasn’t clear if Leroy would be available to compete against Culver City.

charles.rich@latimes.com

Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich


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