NORTH HOLLYWOOD — From domination to devastation.
While Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy co-Coach Frank Pace was quick to point out that he didn't believe his Tologs were ever dominating host Harvard-Westlake, his team's two-goal, first-half lead certainly put it in a dominating position. And during a six-minute span with the match tied late in Monday's Mission League match, the Tologs had once again found their offensive groove and were firmly in control of the run of the game until it all swiftly slipped away.
In transition and on their heels, the Tologs defenders found themselves outnumbered during stoppage time and left Danielle Duhl wide open to put foot to a stifling 30-yard shot in the heart of the field that sent the Wolverines to a 4-3 win and hand Sacred Heart its first defeat of the season in the process.
"The difference is they played 80 minutes," said Pace, whose team, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 in the nation by ESPN Rise, fell to 12-1-1 and 4-1-1 in league. "We didn't get back on that last ball. That's just desire. That's just desire and hard work."
It was also the culmination of a monumental comeback for a Harvard-Westlake team (10-1-3, 3-1-1) that found itself down 1-0 after the fourth minute and 3-1 after the 17th minute.
Having roared back to tie the match, the Wolverines controlled much of the second half, only to see the Tologs once again flex their offensive muscle and skill during a six-minute span in which it appeared the home team would be lucky to escape with a tie. But then came a transition and a pinpoint blast from Duhl just less than a minute into extra time.
"That happens, that one mistake," said Tologs junior forward Breeana Koemans, who had a goal and an assist. "That one mistake messed it all up. [Harvard-Westlake] didn't make mistakes."
Junior forward Katie Johnson put the Tologs up early, scoring off a Kayla Mills assist in the fourth minute before Harvard-Westlake answered two minutes later on a free kick from the right side, roughly 25 yards out by Christine Kanoff to tie the match.
Then, keyed by the trio of Koemans, junior forward Jillian Jacobs and senior Natalie Zeenni, the reigning All-Area Player of the Year, the Tologs put their offensive firepower on display in a dazzling span.
Koemans began a scoring sequence in the 15th minute when she played a ball up to Zeenni who made a run up the right wing and crossed inside to Jacobs, whose shot deflected right back to Koemans, who promptly put the Tologs back ahead, 2-1.
Just two minutes later, Zeenni played a ball up to Koemans, who lofted a beautiful pass that fell just in front of the far post, where Jacobs sprinted onto the scene and one-timed a low shot into the net for a 3-1 advantage.
Harvard-Westlake, which is also ranked 15th in the state by ESPN Rise and 29th in the country, would draw within a goal when Duhl sent a high shot on frame that Tologs keeper Lindsey Espe jumped up to stop, but could not hold onto. Cami Chapus then booted in the rebound in the 30th minute.
At halftime, holding onto a one-goal lead and even before with a two-goal lead, Koemans said her team never got overconfident.
"We didn't," she said. "None of us got big heads."
More than anything, the Tologs placed the three-goal swing on mistakes of their own.
"You mark [Chapus], you mark [Duhl], isn't difficult, it's simple," said Pace of his team's man-marking defensive approach. "We failed to make some fundamental plays on defense. Once [Harvard-Westlake] had hope, they capitalized on it."
Harvard-Westlake tied the match when Hannah Lichtenstein converted a Chapus pass for a 3-3 deadlock in the 54th minute.
Buoyed by the stellar midfield play of Tera Trujillo, the Sacred Heart offense was revitalized late, with Koemans and Johnson causing the majority of the scoring chances, but it wasn't to be.
On the other side of the ball, for much of the match, Sacred Heart's defense looked out of sync.
With sweeper Sarah Teegarden playing far back and Alexa Montgomery also back, defenders Mills and Katelyn Almeida often times looked to be playing midfield as the defense at times resembled a 3-5-2 or even a 2-6-2. But Pace said there was nothing different, but the execution.
"We did the same things we've been doing since 2000," he said. "We just didn't execute."
While the approach may have been the same, obviously the results weren't, as the Tologs, whose 36-match unbeaten streak was ended, gave up four goals in a match for the first time since December of 2008 and did so during a season in which they had only relinquished six total goals in their previous 13 matches.
The loss, Sacred Heart's first in league since a January of 2009 setback also against Harvard
Westlake, still has Sacred Heart in good position to win the league title, as the Tologs,
Wolverines and Chaminade all have one loss.
"We run the table, we still win [league]," said Pace, whose Tologs tied the Wolverines, 2-2, in
the their first meeting. "That's the only silver lining here."
Still, the loss was only the second in 11 seasons in which the Tologs were defeated after
leading at halftime, according to Pace, and against the archrival Wolverines, to boot.
Nonetheless, Pace believes his team can rebound.
"They'll be fine," he said. "They'll be better tomorrow."