La Cañada High girls' soccer marches to CIF semifinals

NEWPORT BEACH — Emma Tapp sat at midfield watching her teammates take penalty kicks with plenty at stake.

Through nine rounds, Tapp studied each shot with the possibility of being called upon to keep the championship aspirations of the La Cañada High girls' soccer team alive.

Then, La Cañada Coach Louie Bilowitz selected Tapp to take the next kick. It turned out to be a wise decision.

Tapp capped a wild 10-round penalty-kick session with a goal to lead third-seeded La Cañada to a 1-1(7-6) road victory against Sage Hill on Monday in a CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinal match.

"I just figured it would be a great situation to score and help us win," said Tapp, a sophomore defender who lined a shot past Sage Hill goalkeeper Kekai Whitford. "Louie needed somebody and he asked me to take the penalty kick.

"I've never been through this many rounds in penalty kicks before and it was pretty stressful having to watch it."

La Cañada, which captured the Rio Hondo League championship, improved to 21-0-1 and will meet host Hemet in a semifinal match at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Sage Hills finished 15-5-5.

Bilowitz had confidence that Tapp could convert on her opportunity.

"I knew she was ready," said Bilowitz, whose team opened the playoffs with home victories against Heritage Christian and California. "I had no idea what would happen [going into penalty kicks]. Some of them who I asked to shoot didn't want to go."

The Spartans also received a big effort from sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlyn Corral, who stopped a pair of penalty kicks after making six saves in 100 minutes.

In the penalty-kick session, the Lightning, which finished second in the Academy League, chose to shoot first. It took a 1-0 lead in the first round on a goal by Allie Mowery before La Cañada's Brianna Albarian knotted it at 1. Both teams didn't convert in the second round. Corral stoped Sage Hill's third attempt and Rosie Quezada scored to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.

After both teams failed to convert in the fourth round, Sage Hill's Rachel Jaffe tied in a 2 to begin the fifth round. La Cañada failed to win it in the fifth round, extending the session. Whitford made it 3-2 in the sixth round before Katherine Sheehy tied it at 3. In the seventh round, Tiffany Taylor of Sage Hill gave the Lightning a 4-3 advantage, but La Cañada's Megan Reilly evened it at 4. Ida Ramezani of Sage Hill and Cassy Quiring swapped goals in the eighth round to make it 5-5. Sage Hill's Meg Crade and Ari Arhadjanians of La Cañada exchanged goals in the ninth round.

In the 10th round, Corral made a save on Lauren Thunen before Tapp ended the marathon session.

Corral said she played in a match for her club team about two years ago that went 16 rounds. Monday's match had more ramifications.

"I knew I'd have to work real hard," said Corral, who transferred from league rival San Marino. "We practiced penalty kicks last week and knew it might come down to it at some point in a game.

"You have to be sharp mentally and prepared at all times. Today was more stressful. I had confidence that I could do well and I believed in all of our shooters."

Sage Hill took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute when Claire Novotny headed the ball past Corral off a direct kick by Taylor.

The Spartans, who seemed to lack mobility in the first half, regained their composure in the second half. La Cañada tied it at 1 on a goal by Megan decker off an assist from Natalie Ragusa in the 50th minute.

"We just weren't able to penetrate in the first half and gave up a fluky goal," Bilowitz said. "In the second half, we controlled play more and their goalie was by far the best one we've seen all year.

"We know Hemet will be a strong team."

The Spartans lost starting defender Katrina Davis to a possible concussion early in the second half. Bilowitz said it was unlikely she would be able to compete against Hemet.

The match with Sage Hill was originally scheduled to be played Friday, but a strong rain storm left parts of the Sage Hill field flooded.

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