LOS ANGELES — Before the season began, the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team was upfront about its goal of finishing in the top three in the Mission League and earning a return trip to the postseason. At that same time, coach Cesar Hidalgo also conceded it was going to “be tough.”
The coach’s words have been prophetic.
On Wednesday at Occidental College’s Patterson Field, the going got even tougher, as Flintridge Sacred Heart scored first but could not hold the lead, falling, 3-1, to Alemany and putting the hopes of reaching the playoffs into serious jeopardy with four league contests to go.
“Right now we have a very young team that need to learn how to play this game at this level. We are definitely not prepared,” Flintridge Sacred Heart Coach Cesar Hidalgo said. “We’re going to take it as it comes to see how the end of the next games are and hope for the best.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart (8-6-2, 1-4-1) came out on the attack and grabbed an early lead when Dylan Harrow scored in the game’s sixth minute on the game’s first shot. The Tologs pushed the ball forward to freshman striker Nia Harris, who was met by multiple defenders and the Warriors goalkeeper. The ball then was propelled out of the grouping and Harrow snagged it with her foot. The sophomore took advantage of the retreating goalkeeper and sent a shot in the air over her head and into the back of the net.
“The goalie didn’t play smart enough and I just chipped it over her head,” Harrow said.
However, after the Harrow goal, the Tologs’ attack and ball possession waned, allowing Alemany (12-3-2, 4-2) to get going. The Warriors tied the game in the 13th minute on an extraordinary effort by Alemany winger Carisa Martine. The speedy senior carried the ball deep down the left side of the pitch, drawing three defenders before cutting back toward her own goal.
“You’ve got to have a little sense of how to play the game and be mentally prepared on how to be against faster players, even if they are small,” Hidalgo said of his team’s trouble containing Martine. “She was faster than everyone else.”
Martine then cut back one more time to beat all three Tologs defenders and create space to cross the ball. She drove it low to the waiting feet of two Warriors who were unmarked in front of the net. The first whiffed on her one-touch attempt and missed her chance but the second, Hinako Omizu, cashed in and knocked the ball home for the equalizer.
Alemany took the lead with 3:26 left in the first half off a corner kick. Warrior Sara Hernandez drove the kick low toward the near post. It was met by two Tologs defenders along with Warrior Miriam Ramirez. Out of the scrum, the ball slid down the body of Ramirez, picking up enough momentum to skip into the goal.
“There were three people there and I didn’t even see it and all of a sudden it rolls in and I was like, ‘Crud,’” Tologs goalkeeper Dani Garcia said of the second Alemany goal. “It was one of those junk balls where you’re like, ‘Where’s the ball? Where’s the ball? Oh, there it is.’ But it’s too late.”
The second half saw a majority of the action played on Flintridge Sacred Heart’s defensive side of the field. The Warriors then got an insurance goal with 16:42 to play from Kaley Catrell. The goal was once again the result of another Martine assist. This one came on a cross, as she was wiped out near the end line, that found an unmarked Catrell feet from the goalmouth.
Wednesday’s loss means Alemany has swept the season series from the Tologs after not defeating them at any point in the last decade.
“It’s a little rough,” Harrow said. “We’ve won against Alemany for the past couple years, so not winning is tough. But we fought hard. It is what it is.”
With four Mission League games to go, the Tologs are not ready to give up on a return to the postseason this season.
“We have to win three games to move on to CIF,” Harrow projected. “So we’re just going to have to try our best. Four hard games, but I think we can do it.”