Heart-breaking end

IRVINE — It was another second-half playoff comeback.

It was another nailbiter decided by penalty kicks against a familiar foe.

But for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team, another round in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs was not to be.

Having rallied to tie the match with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, second-seeded Sacred Heart rebounded against third-seeded Beckman to play inspired soccer over the final 60 minutes of the match, but it was one settled by the fate of penalty kicks and one in which the Patriots prevailed against the Tologs, 2-2 (4-3) on Tuesday night at Irvine High in the Division II semifinals.

“It was a great game,” said Flintridge Sacred Heart co-Coach Frank Pace, whose team was making the program’s first-ever semifinal appearance. “It comes down to PKs and it’s the luck of the draw.”

And Beckman Coach Stacy Colon drew on freshman goalkeeper Kori Decker to replace Jessica Miller, who had played all of regulation and overtime and garnered nine saves. It proved to be a worthy gamble, as Decker stopped shots by Jillian Jacobs and Savannah Viola, who had booted in the winning penalty kick when the Tologs had bested the Patriots, 1-1 (6-5) earlier this season in the Los Tacos Tournament final.

“Kori Decker is very confident with penalty kicks,” Colon said. “She sort of asked for it and she got it.”

Sacred Heart’s Alyssa Conti and Haley Mojica followed the save of Jacobs’ attempt with goals made, though Mojica’s was stopped only to roll past the goalline. Breeanna Koemans also converted for the Tologs before Sacred Heart goalie Dominique Oro came up clutch with a save of her own against Beckman’s Jaci Brown. But Decker saved Viola’s attempt, setting the stage for Camryn Jun to go low right and lead the Patriots into the championship game against Harvard-Westlake later this week.

Hence, the Tologs end their run having gone 2-0-2 against the two teams in the championship match.

“It was the equivalent of a championship game,” Pace said. “[Co-Coach] Kathy [Desmond] and I told the kids they’re champions. You’ve got two teams in the CIF finals that we’re unbeaten against in four tries.”

And against the Patriots (19-2-1), who had lost to Sacred Heart in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, the Tologs (19-1-4) once more showed the fortitude that led them to a comeback win against Saugus in the quarters in which they won 3-2 after trailing 2-0.

“It comes from them,” said Desmond of her players, adding that moving sweeper Natalie Zeenni to midfield and pushing Sarah Teegarden to sweeper was a move that paid huge dividends in the latter stages of the game.

It was Zeenni who took a pass from Katie Johnson and dished it to the right to Jacobs, who booted in the game-tying goal in the 79th minute — though the game would run into stoppage time thereafter.

Sacred Heart, which was the beneficiary of a missed penalty kick by Beckman early in the game, took a 1-0 lead when Johnson converted a Koemans pass in the 16th minute. But Beckman gained control, using an apparent speed and quickness advantage to take a 2-1 halftime lead after goals by Tawni Martino and Chloe Taylor in the 27th and 39th minute, respectively.

But after the intermission, the Tologs simply took over.

“I think it took everything we had to keep up with them, they’re a great team,” Colon said. “They’re just a tough team. You can’t dominate them for 80 minutes, it hasn’t happened.”

Tera Trujillo, Lauren Torres, Koemans, Zeenni and particularly Jacobs and Johnson all created chances and took good shots in the second half and overtime. In the final 60 minutes, Sacred Heart outshot Beckman, 16-5, with a 10-3 edge over the last 40 minutes of regulation.

“I feel like we should’ve won,” Desmond said. “I feel like we dominated the second half and overtime.”

And inside the first minute of sudden-death overtime it appeared it was over, as Alexa Montgomery played a ball up to Koemans, who had lost her defender. With Miller challenging, Koemans got off a shot on an exposed net that trickled just right of the post.

The chances didn’t stop there, continuing with four solid shots in the second half of overtime.

And, likely for the Tologs, though their bid for a first-ever CIF title ended, their season probably will not. They should have a very good chance at being selected to take part in the CIF Southern California Division III Regionals, with the pairings announced on Sunday.

“We expect to be in the regionals,” Pace said. “We expect to be playing [next week].”


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