LOS ANGELES — Faced with a formidable foe in Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's soccer team not only accomplished one of its season-long goals, but also showcased just how potent it can be, all in a span of 80 impressive minutes.
Behind a hat trick from junior forward Katie Johnson, the Tologs made an emphatic statement with a resounding 5-1 win over Notre Dame on Friday at Occidental College and wrapped up at least a share of the Mission League title in the process.
"It was our most consistent effort in a while," said Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace, whose team, ranked fourth in CIF Southern Section Division I, improved to 15-1-1 overall and 7-1-1 in league for 22 points. "We thought we played very well the first 20 minutes and the last 20 and pretty well the rest of the game. This was probably our best 80 minutes of soccer.
"It's nice to have won at least a share of it two out of the last three years."
Sacred Heart won the program's first league title in 2009 and can clinch an outright crown with a win at Occidental on Monday against Chaminade (5-1-2 for 19 points), which, along with Harvard-Westlake (5-1-2 for 19 points) can do no better than catch the Tologs.
It was the third straight victory since a disastrous 4-3 loss to Harvard-Westlake, a team Notre Dame (9-7-6, 2-4-2) defeated. Going off its performance on Friday, though, it appears the Tologs are emphatically headed in the right direction.
"It shows we know how to finish," said Johnson, who scored the game's first goal in the 18th minute off a Lauren Torres assist before adding two more in the second half.
The second half, in particular, proved pivotal for the Tologs, as they turned a close 2-1 game into a rout by doing something they had not done in the previous three games — score in the second half.
"[Since] the Harvard-Westlake game, we built up our team chemistry," said junior forward Breeana Koemans, who tallied a goal and an assist. "The fact that we put three away in the second half is great. And this is one step closer to being [outright] league champions, which is great."
In the 29th minute, junior forward Jillian Jacobs scored off an Alexa Montgomery helper to make it 2-0, but Notre Dame's Bridget Talley scored on a rebound of a free kick three minutes later to cut the Sacred Heart lead in half.
Sacred Heart began to reassert itself offensively at the start of the second half, firing four shots on net in a five-minute span before Notre Dame began to play the match back to even.
Then Koemans unleashed a perfect free kick from just inside the 25-yard line and the rout was on.
"We can score goals in bunches," Pace said.
Not long after, Johnson stole a ball deep in the attacking third, moved around her mark and easily scored for a 4-1 lead.
The final scoring sequence saw Krista Meaglia play a ball up to Koemans who found Meaglia on the left wing. Meaglia worked the ball in to Johnson, who finished her hat trick.
It proved to be the end of a long day for Johnson, who woke up in Florida, where she had been for the Olympic Developmental Program, flew back and made quite an impression on an overwhelmed Knights defense.
"I just need to take a nap," she said. "I thought it was gonna be a really good game or a really bad one [for me]. It turned out to be really good."
Really good for more than one reason.
For a Sacred Heart squad which is the reigning CIF Southern California Division III Regional champion and has been ranked among the best in the state and the country all year by ESPN Rise, the impressive fashion of Friday's game bodes well for a team that's aspirations stretch beyond just claiming league glory.
"The five goals gives us so much momentum," Koemans said. "Everybody's working together up top."