GLENDALE - [UPDATED: 1:42 p.m.] In the midst of the finest season in program history and area chronicle, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team officially received news on Sunday that was quite predictable following Friday night.
On the heels of defeating San Clemente, 1-0, in the championship game of the CIF Southern Section Division I tournament Friday, the Tologs were named the No. 1 seed on Sunday for the CIF Southern California Division III Regional Soccer Championships.
The Tologs, who won the Division III crown last year, are set to begin defense of their regional title on Tuesday, when they host Horizon Christian Academy of the San Diego Section at Occidental College at 4 p.m.
“From the draw, it looks like a much more difficult field than last year,” said Pace, whose Tologs were seeded second last season and defeated LACES, 7-0, and then Desert Christian, 4-0, before a 2-1 championship win over Francis Parker.
Should Sacred Heart (21-1-1) defeat Horizon Christian (10-10-4), the San Diego Section Division V champion, it would face either fourth-seeded Central Valley Christian (21-1) of the Central Section or St. Margaret's (26-2-1), the Southern Section Division VI champion. Desert Christian, the Southern Section Division V champion, was originally scheduled to face Central Valley, but elected not to except its regional invitation.
On the other side of the bracket, The Bishop’s School (13-4) of the San Diego Section drew the No. 2 seed and will host Animo Leadership (17-7-2), the Southern Section Division VII runner-up. Oaks Christian (23-2-1), the third seed and Southern Section Division IV champion, will play LACES (12-6-4), the City Section Small Schools runner-up.
“I’m glad that both Bishop and Oaks Christian are on the other end of the draw,” Pace said. “They’re known commodities to me. I’m sure that Central Valley Christian is very good and we know about Desert Christian, but I really know Oaks and Bishops.”
The Tologs, who’ve been led offensively by Katie Johnson, Breeana Koemans and Krista Meaglia, had three consecutive road games after opening up the Southern Section playoffs with a home game. In the quarterfinals, they hosted Tesoro, but it was technically a home game for Tesoro, which was penalized for a ball violation. Then on Friday, despite winning a coin flip to be the home team in the championship, they played at Mission Viejo High, only a few miles from San Clemente High.
However, in the regionals, with the No. 1 seed, Sacred Heart is assured a home game Tuesday and if it advances to Thursday’s semifinal. The championship game will be played at Warren High on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
Pace is confident that conflicts with club soccer will not prevent any of his Tologs from playing in the final, should they advance, but is worried about SATs being held the same day. As for whether or not his team can match the level of intensity it displayed in Friday’s final and become as energized for the regionals after playing the level of competition it did in the Southern Section tournament, Pace believes last season serves as a blueprint.
“I was concerned about that last year. We had come off such a high after the Saugus game and then the letdown of the Beckman game,” said Pace in reference to a comeback 3-2 quarterfinal win over Saugus before falling in penalty kicks to Beckman in the Division II semifinals. “We did it last year, so I assume we should be able to do it again.”
And, as added incentive, when the Tologs take the field on Tuesday, they will likely do so ranked as the No. 1 team in the country, according to ESPN Rise. Previously ranked third, the Tologs defeated No. 2 San Clemente on the same day that No. 1 Marcus High of Texas lost. Hence, should Sacred Heart win the regionals for a second season in a row, it’s likely it would finish its season as the No. 1 team in the nation.