One last title tussle for Tologs

GLENDALE — As any squad still playing in mid-March can likely boast, the Oaks Christian High girls' soccer team appears to be playing its best soccer of the season.

But is the Lions' best good enough to beat a much-lauded Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy team also hitting on all cylinders?

That question will be decided today at 10:30 a.m. at Warren High in Downey in the finale of the CIF Southern California Division III Regional Soccer Championships.

The defending-champion Tologs enter with a 23-1-1 overall mark, while the Lions are an impressive 25-2-1. Both teams are riding double-digit win streaks and the euphoria of recently capturing a CIF Southern Section title in their respective divisions.

"We're looking forward to a great game," said Sacred Heart senior forward Alyssa Conti, whose top-seeded team ascended to the No. 1 ranking in ESPN Rise's national poll after beating San Clemente, 1-0, in the CIF Southern Section Division I title game on March 4. "They're coming off a [19]-game [win] streak and that's kind of intimidating, but we're looking forward to playing them. We're coming out guns out.

"This is the last game [the seniors are] ever going to play together, we know that for a fact, so we're going to give it all we have and leave everything on the field and hopefully come out with a victory."

The third-seeded Lions haven't lost since Dec. 20, and their current 19-game streak includes a 2-0 win over Canyon Springs in the Division IV title game on March 5 and regional tournament shutout wins over LACES and The Bishop's School.

"We're playing some good soccer right now, we're on a little bit of a roll," said Oaks Christian Coach Sebastian Alvarado, whose team defeated the San Diego Section Division IV champs, 3-0, in the semifinals on Thursday. "We played a great game against Bishop's, they were the best team we've played all year.

"The second half of that game was our best half of the year so far against a good team."

Oaks Christian got three goals from senior forward Ally Courtnall to claim a decisive victory over Bishop's in a game that was tied at halftime.

"I don't know if I was impressed, but it certainly caught my attention," Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace said. "I'm surprised that the margin of victory was so great.

"It's certainly nothing that we will overreact to. It would be the equivalent of us overreacting to Harvard-Westlake's 6-1 victory over [Oaks Christian on Dec. 10]. I don't believe for a minute that Harvard-Westlake is five goals better than Oaks Christian."

On the season, Courtnall leads the Lions with 28 goals, while junior forward Bianca Deardorff isn't far behind with 20.

"We always know they're a good team and they've always got good players," Pace said. "We're going to have to bring our 'A' game against them."

Offensively, Sacred Heart counters with the one-two punch of junior forwards Katie Johnson and Breeana Koemans with plenty of other strikers providing depth right behind them.

The Tologs have proven to be a nightmare to game plan against in the postseason. St. Margaret's attempt to pack the middle of the field and basically sacrifice its own offense for defense in the semifinals on Thursday couldn't keep Sacred Heart from posting a 3-0 win behind two goals from Koemans and another from Conti. And, defensively, the Tologs have been a brick wall all postseason, surrendering just three goals in seven matches.

"We're just going to go with our own game plan, worry about our girls and play the same soccer we've been playing for the last two months," Alvarado said. "We're just going to try to take care of our own team and manage what we do. If we have to change our game around after a score, then we'll do it."

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