SAN MARINO — For a squad enjoying perhaps its best start to a season in program history, the La Cañada High girls’ soccer team certainly relied on a strong finish Wednesday afternoon.
The visiting Spartans remained perfect thanks to two second-half goals in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory versus San Marino in a showdown of the league’s final two unbeatens within league play.
With the triumph, CIF Southern Section Division V fourth-ranked La Cañada improved to 14-0 overall and 5-0 in league and now owns a widening advantage over the Titans (8-4-2, 3-1-1).
“We played kickball the entire [first] half and [San Marino] took it to us and they could have been up 5-0,” Spartans Coach Louie Bilowitz said. “They just completely dominated us in the first half.
“Halftime we settled the [team] down and got them to play on the ground and to play soccer and I think we were the better team in the second half. The first half was scary.”
The Spartans tallied the match-winner in the 74th minute thanks in part to an early two-player combination between sophomore Katherine Sheehy and junior Natalie Ragusa that resulted in a pass inside the goal mouth and led to a collision between La Cañada halfback Cassy Quiring and Titans goalie Ellie Hannan.
While both players crashed to the ground, Quiring arose quicker than Hannan, was in position for a pass from Katrina Davis, and headed in the match-winning goal from five yards.
“It was a lot of effort in the box and we just went 100% and I was able to head it in and it scored,” Quiring said. “It was a great feeling.”
The goal was the second of the half for the Spartans, who tied the match in the 54th minute with a brilliant 25-yard free kick from center defender Olivia Leyva that rocketed over the outstretched hands of Hannan.
Overall, La Cañada outshot San Marino, 8-5, in the second half, which was a complete turnaround from the first half.
San Marino outshot La Cañada, 7-2, through 40 minutes and scored the lone goal right before halftime.
Titans forward Ronee Nugent was sent a cross from teammate Erin McClosky about 12 yards from goal around 30 seconds into extra time in the first half.
Nugent fended off her defender with one arm before spinning and firing a shot past a diving effort from sophomore goalie Kaitlyn Corral (six saves) for a score.
San Marino had two extra minutes to play with in the first half due to a Spartans injury delay.
The goal capped a half in which the Titans came close on a few possessions, including on a 20-yard shot from Alana Hillman that was stopped by Corral, a San Marino High transfer, in the 38th minute.
San Marino also put together a solid look inside the penalty area in the 20th minute in which Hayley Thompson fed Nugent, who sailed high on a 15-yard shot.
While La Cañada was limited in the first half, the Spartans nearly netted the match’s first tally in the 24th minute when a free kick from Leyva bounced over the clear-out attempt of a Titans’ defender and right to Spartan Ari Aghadjanians.