LOS ANGELES — With standouts Tera Trujillo, Katie Johnson and Krista Meaglia having missed the duration of the season thus far, a good deal of the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer campaign has been about who wasn’t on the field.
With Savanah Viola joining the trio on the injured list and fellow starters Hanna Armendariz, Kayla Mills and Sarah Teegarden gone with Olympic developmental commitments, Friday evening’s Mission League tilt against visiting Sherman Oaks Notre Dame saw the Tologs’ starting lineup take on an entirely different look.
But when all was said and done, the game-winner came from someone who hadn’t been on the field for the Tologs all season long, as junior varsity call-up Laura Thompson scored in the 35th minute to propel Sacred Heart to a 1-0 win over the Knights.
“How we just played is how I remember us playing in the CIF [championship],” said senior defender Katelyn Almeida, an All-Area selection from last year’s squad that won the CIF Southern Section Division I title game against San Clemente, 1-0.
Almeida, along with fellow senior Alexa Montgomery, were outstanding on the defensive end in leading the Tologs (10-3-1, 3-1 in league), ranked ninth in Division I, to their fifth straight shutout. And both saved the game on separate plays for the Tologs, with Almeida making a save along the backline in the first half and Montgomery doing the same in the second half to preserve the lead and, inevitably, the win.
“Huge,” said Sacred Heart co-Coach Frank Pace in describing the magnitude of the victory. “This was not an average win.
“This was a game where we came in and said lets shut them out and try and steal a goal.”
And, with returning starters at a premium and three junior varsity players called up, that’s exactly the script the Tologs followed.
“I think that we haven’t really gone through something like we’re going through,” said Almeida, who jumped into goalie Lindsey Espe’s arms to celebrate the win. “We brought three up from JV and they stepped up and kicked butt.”
Not the least of which was the speedy Thompson.
Late in the second half, a ball came to Thompson’s feet in the middle of the field. She took a touch before letting loose on a shot from roughly 20 yards out that ducked under the crossbar inside the far post. It was not only the game-winner, but Thompson’s first varsity goal.
“I honestly did not think it was gonna go in,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing.
“I never thought this would happen, for me, being a sophomore on such a prestigious team that’s won everything it has, it’s such an honor.”
The Tologs’ offense, led by Breeana Koemans and Jill Jacobs, still took 16 shots to Notre Dame’s five, but things got dicey in the second half, as the Knights had their fair share of runs and the Tologs had their fair share of scares. In the end, Espe made just two saves in the shutout, equaling the combined number of Almeida and Montgomery.
Sacred Heart also had a golden opportunity to put the game away when Jacobs made a pinpoint cross to Hailey James, but James’ touch went just left of the frame.
Nonetheless, for a Tologs team that celebrated a league and CIF title last year, but was short on numbers Friday, the victory was clearly one of significance.
“We were missing a lot of players and Notre Dame thought they could beat us,” Thompson said, “but we were able to succeed.”
Added Pace: “I think we got our Tolog back on. Now there are no more distractions from here to the finish line. ... It’s just straight soccer.”