SHERMAN OAKS — Entering their latest Mission League match, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's soccer team found itself on the heels of a scary one-goal win over Alemany, while Sherman Oaks Notre Dame had thrown a scare into Harvard-Westlake in its previous match — another one-goal contest.
On Thursday afternoon, it was much the same for both teams, as the Tologs — despite dominating both sides of the ball from start to finish — survived a scare in a 2-1 league win over the Knights at Notre Dame High.
"We dominated and it was kinda just like a slip," said Tologs senior Natalie Zeenni, the reigning All-Area Girls' Soccer Player of the Year. "We had opportunity after opportunity and they had one and they just happened to finish that one."
Fortunately for the Tologs, ranked No. 1 in the state by ESPN Rise, Zeenni finished her one opportunity when she booted home a rebound in the 72nd minute that would stand as the game-winner. Zeenni's score followed a first-half tally by Katie Johnson. Both were assisted by Breeana Koemans.
Still, Sacred Heart (11-0-1, 3-0-1 in league) came away with plenty of reasons to believe it should have had more than just two goals to show for its efforts after taking 21 shots, with nine saved and plenty of them sparkling chances.
"We just missed a lot of opportunities," said Sacred Heart co-Coach Kathy Desmond, who earned her 200th coaching win with the program. "When you create opportunities, it means you're doing well offensively. Finishing is another story."
But the Tologs also had a few reasons to breathe a sigh of relief after holding onto a win over the Knights (8-5-4, 1-2).
Leading, 1-0, roughly 10 minutes into the second half, the Tologs had yet to even give up a second-half shot when a ball was played back to Sacred Heart goalie Lindsey Espe despite two Knights pressuring the play. Espe's clearing attempt went straight to Pauline Colarossi, who passed right to a wide-open Annie Dertouzos, who booted in what appeared to be a match-tying tally. The goal was called off due to offsides, however.
Ten minutes after Zeenni's tally, Notre Dame cut the score in half when an unmarked Jessica Schachtner scored just a few feet in front of the goalline off a perfect cross from Allison Suarez.
One final scare came when a Meg Pierce shot was stopped by a diving Espe — for the junior's only save of the day — but the ball came free and Schachtner had a shot on an exposed net go wide left.
"Thank God only one of them cost a goal," said Desmond of the miscues. "It shouldn't have been a heart attack at the end … even if they scored a goal. We missed too many opportunities."
Looming as large as the defensive miscues did, Sacred Heart's defense was otherwise excellent, anchored by Zeenni in the first half and Sarah Teegarden in the second and also highlighted by the play of Alexa Montgomery and Katelyn Almeida. Notre Dame had just six shots the entire game, with three coming from set pieces.
In just the third minute of play, Koemanns had a stellar scoring chance, but her low shot was saved.
Throughout the match, Koemans, Johnson, Kayla Mills and Jillian Jacobs all had good chances snuffed out by either the Notre Dame keeper or simply errant shots.
Koemans finally got the Tologs going in the 24th minute when she pushed the ball up the heart of the field and hit Johnson with a pass. Johnson had at least a step or two on her mark, which caused the goalie to challenge and allowed Johnson to loft an easy goal into an open net.
Johnson set up Koemans on the second goal, but the latter had her point-blank shot stopped, only to create a rebound opportunity for Zeenni, who sprinted onto the scene and connected for a 2-0 Tologs advantage.
"We moved Natalie up and she scored a goal," Desmond said. "She's in the back and we didn't give up a goal. Natalie's very dynamic."
Not long after Notre Dame cut the score in half, Jacobs looked to have brought the lead back up to two goals, but her shot hit under the crossbar and bounced out.
Nevertheless, with the win, the Tologs remained unbeaten and, on the strength of a Harvard-Westlake loss to Chaminade on Wednesday, are all alone in first place in league.