Flintridge Prep girls' soccer can't climb past Granite Hills

APPLE VALLEY — Before the season began, Flintridge Prep girls' soccer Coach Esteban Chavez wasn't sure what to expect of his young team.

The Rebels were in line to field a team dotted with freshmen and sophomores, sprinkled in with some juniors and seniors.

Shortly after Flintridge Prep saw its season conclude Wednesday with a 4-0 road loss against Granite Hills in a CIF Southern Section Division III second-round match, Chavez praised his squad.

“We came a long way in short time,” said Chavez, whose team finished 14-5-5 after placing second in the Prep League behind top-seeded Pasadena Poly. “They gone through a lot of experiences and learned quite a bit.

“We took second in league and then got to the second round of the playoffs by experiencing what it's like to play a playoff game at home and then in tough conditions on the road. They've exceeded our expectations.”

With the glare from the mid-afternoon sun and gusty winds whipping up throughout the 80-minute match, Flintridge Prep trailed, 1-0, at halftime. Granite Hills, which captured the Desert Sky League championship, scored two goals about two minutes apart early in the second half to break the contest open.

Unfortunately for the Rebels, they weren't able to recover after generating several quality scoring opportunities in the first half with the sun and wind behind them.

“That was the biggest difference,” said Chavez, whose team opened the playoff Friday with a home win against Malibu. “We had some chances to score in the first half and couldn't convert and then they get two chances and score on both of them to start the second half.

“Again, it's a learning experience for our players.”

The Cougars, who started the postseason with a 4-0 win against Santa Maria St. Joseph and will next face second-seeded Los Altos or Garden Grove Pacifica in a quarterfinal match Friday, fought against the elements in the first half. Granite Hills grabbed a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute on a goal by Maria Lara off a free kick by Ashlenn Bradbury.

Flintridge Prep nearly knotted it at 1 in the 20th minute, but Granite Hills goalkeeper Noelle Hele made a diving save on a shot by Keila Fisher.

Granite Hills then received goals in the 41st and 43rd minutes from Michelle Zarate and Ashley Gilliand, respectively, to make it 3-0.

It was at that point that Granite Hills Coach Mike Bradbury could relax a bit.

“A 1-0 lead isn't safe and a 2-0 lead is still tough, but I think we could settle in when it got to 3-0,” Bradbury said. “We were able to stay with it.

“Flintridge Prep has got a real good young team and Esteban is an amazing coach. We've been friends for a long time. If I had to cheer for somebody other than Granite Hills, I would cheer for Flintridge Prep.”

The Cougars closed out the scoring in the final minute on a goal by Lara. Granite Hills received three assists from Ashlenn Bradbury.

Flintridge Prep freshman midfielder Jillian Brady said the Rebels, who saw their 10-match unbeaten streak conclude (8-0-2), came a long way.

“In the beginning of the season, we got off to a rocky start,” Brady said. “Then we started to improve and we finished [the regular season] strong.

“It's a bummer to lose, but we did better than expected.”

Flintridge Prep goalkeeper Lauren Stiles, who stopped four penalty kicks against Malibu, finished with four saves.

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