Flintridge Sacred Heart staying at home afterall

GLENDALE — Another trip behind the Orange Curtain will gladly have to wait for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team when it takes to the field for its second consecutive CIF Southern Section quarterfinal appearance today.

Flintridge Prep, however, isn't quite as fortunate, as it will venture outside of its campus confines for the first time in its current postseason journey when it faces host Ayala, the No. 1 seed in the Division III playoffs in today's quarterfinal matchup.

Sacred Heart, on the heels of a thrilling second-round win over Aliso Niguel, had been scheduled to travel to face Tesoro today, but will instead remain at its home field of Occidental College due to Tesoro committing a CIF infraction by using the wrong brand of soccer balls.

"Obviously we'd rather play at home, especially [rather than] deep in the home of Orange County soccer," said Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace, whose Tologs (18-1-1) will host Tesoro (15-2-6) today at 3 p.m. in the Division I quarterfinals. "To get a little edge like this is something we're excited about. Now we have to take advantage of that."

Tesoro, which took second in the Sea View League, shut out its first two playoff opponents, besting J. Serra, 1-0, in the first round before a 4-0 throttling of Newport Harbor on Tuesday.

Third-seeded Sacred Heart, which won the Mission League this season, ran roughshod over first-round foe Foothill, 5-1, before a thrilling 0-0 (4-3) victory at Aliso Niguel. The win came on the strength of a game-winning score via Tera Trujillo in penalty kicks and goalkeeper Lindsey Espe stopping three PKs.

"I'm not sure this year that we've had a team-defining win until [Tuesday]," said Pace, who also got PK goals from Alyssa Conti, Breeana Koemans and Lauren Torres. "We won so many of our games before halftime that [Tuesday] was a really great team-defining win. What you had was everyone that stepped on the field contributed.

"That's what was really special."

Tesoro is ranked third nationally by ESPN Rise, while Sacred Heart, which had been ranked that high in the past before a loss to Harvard-Westlake dropped it down, is ranked 14th in the poll.

"They're a very good team," Pace said. "They're ranked No. 3 in the nation by ESPN Rise. But I know another team that was ranked No. 3 in the nation and they lost. So I know it's doable."

Flintridge Prep (18-3-2) is also faced with a formidable task in taking on Ayala on the road after playoff home victories against Diamond Bar and Cypress during its current seven-game win streak.

Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez was quick to acknowledge that he and his team would much rather have a home game, "but honestly, that shouldn't matter that much," he said.

And though the Rebels, led by a cast that includes Brooke Elby, Arielle Baptiste and Connell Studenmund, are in the midst of a historic run that's included an outright Prep League title and a trip to the quarterfinals, Chavez said his team is certainly not taking the attitude of simply being glad to have got to where it has and certainly isn't conceding defeat.

"I'm proud of the girls and they're proud of themselves, but I don't sense that at all," Chavez said. "I don't think they feel that way and I don't feel that way."

Ayala (19-4-3), the Sierra League champion, boasts a potent offense that features Alex Rovira (nine goals and 10 assists), Makenzy Doniak (15 goals, nine assists) and Ekaette Afia (10 goals, four assists) and rolled over its previous two playoff opponents – Knight and St. Joseph – by identical 4-0 scores.

"They are really strong. All the way around, they're big time," Chavez said. "It's a huge challenge, but we're going out there to beat them.

"I like our chances."

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