NORTH HOLLYWOOD — Judging by the first half and the final score of its 2-0 loss to host Harvard-Westlake High on Wednesday evening, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team is hardly where it needs to be.
But, for the reigning and defending league and CIF Southern Section Division I champions, the second half of their league opener might very well be a saving grace that has the Tologs headed along the same path as last season, according to co-Coach Frank Pace.
“I leave here very encouraged,” said Pace, whose Tologs gave up two first-half goals, including one just 70 seconds into the match. “They finally bought what we were trying to sell, which is hard, aggressive defense.
“I finally feel we are where we want to be.
“The message finally landed today.”
Nonetheless, the overall results did not, as the Tologs (7-3-1) fell to 0-2-1 in their last three games, a span in which they’ve been dealt three consecutive shutouts. All told, Sacred Heart has been held scoreless for a span of roughly 208 minutes dating back to the second half of a 3-0 win over Royal on Dec. 27, 2010.
“I just think we’re not finishing right now,” said Pace of an offense that saw the likes of Breeana Koemans, Kayla Mills and Lauren Torres lead the way in a nine-shot second half but come up empty. “We’ll get ‘em. ... We will score.”
But it was being scored upon that was the problem on Wednesday, as the defense appeared confused and out of sorts when a breakdown allowed a Hannah Lichtenstein goal from the right wing, up close on a low shot just 1 minute 10 seconds into the match.
Indeed the early goal buoyed Harvard-Westlake (8-1-1). With 23 minutes left in the half, Danielle Duhl worked her way through the defense of two Tologs on a breakaway, forcing Sacred Heart keeper Lindsey Espe to come out and force the play. Duhl’s attempt was deflected by Espe, but trickled to a speedy Cami Chapus — the defending state 1,600-meter champion in track and field — who booted in a 2-0 lead.
“They just can’t freelance and do whatever they want to do,” Pace said. “With [Katie Johnson, Tera Trujillo and Krista Meaglia] out, we’re not good enough to freelance.”
Pace also argued with the referees and the opposing sideline, as both Chapus and Lichtenstein were wearing numbers that were different than what was listed. Reportedly, Lichtenstein misplaced her jersey and Chapus’ number was simply a difference between a home and away jersey with a different number.
Nonetheless, it only seemed to add on to the chaotic environment for the Tologs, as they went back and forth early, down the field and back up it despite the early deficit, but as the first half wore on found themselves in a one-sided affair.
“It was the first game of league and we were at home. I think that was a big advantage,” said Wolverines Coach Richard Simms. “We were ready to play and it showed.”
As for Sacred Heart, it was clearly the opposite.
“There’s no question, we’re not prepared to play the game when it starts,” Pace said. “We’re not focused.”
In the second half, Espe, who had four saves, made a diving stop, a great save of a rocket by Chapus and thwarted a breakaway by forcing a Chapus shot off-line.
For much of it, though, Sacred Heart pressured with a heavy possession advantage, but goalie Reba Magier was excellent in net in making eight saves — including multiple leaping saves on free kicks by Koemans — and the Tologs simply couldn’t find the finishing touch.
“Second half, they had all the momentum,” Simms said. “They just couldn’t score for whatever reason.”
Thus, the unsettling streak of Sacred Heart having never been able to win at Harvard-Westlake continued. However, Pace takes away the hope that the second-half turn of events is enough to turn the season’s momentum. And both Pace and Simms are well-aware of recent rivalry history and offered differing words in regards to that.
“Hopefully, history’s not repeating itself,” said Simms in reference to his team winning league in 2010 despite going 0-1-1 against Sacred Heart, while the Tologs won league last season despite going 0-1-1 against the Wolverines.
Said Pace, whose team hosts Louisville on Friday: “If we can do what we did here [in the second half] and carry it, I think we’ll be fine. ... I told the girls, who won [between the teams] last year? And who won league and who won CIF? We’re right where we were.”