The La Salle varsity girls’ soccer team had to defeat visiting St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano twice to claim the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship at Kohorst Field last Saturday.
The Lancers edged the Tartans, 4-2, in a penalty kick shootout following a 2-2 tie in regulation and overtime to claim the program’s third CIF plaque in school history.
“It feels so amazing,” said sophomore Celine Akroush. “We’ve worked so hard throughout the season. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we got it. We made it, and we won twice, not once, because of the ref.”
A gritty matchup between two programs playing their best soccer took a strange turn after two scoreless overtime periods.
The teams were tied, 2-2, after two rounds of penalty kicks. St. Margaret’s Audrey Larson opened the third round of penalty kicks and was denied by Akroush, who substituted switched with starting goalkeeper Kathryn Mena for
the shootout. La Salle midfielder Shelby Melin followed and buried her shot to give the home squad a 3-2 advantage.
In the fourth set of penalty kicks, Tartan Bryce Chan’s shot went wide right and La Salle players began celebrating the victory.
The Lancers (18-5 overall record) were handed the championship plaque and t-shirts but the main referee came out of the locker room and spoiled the celebration. He ran toward goal with his arm forward, indicating another penalty kick must be taken by a La Salle athlete, which was the right call because the Lancers needed one more goal to clinch the win.
“This is insane,” Akroush said of the mistake committed by the referees. “It doesn’t even make sense to me. I don’t even know what happened, but we won. That’s all that matters. We won at home, and it’s amazing.”
After much discussion and debate, junior Tatum Mediano rose to the occasion put her penalty kick into the back of the net to officially give La Salle a 4-2 victory and the program’s first title since 2007.
“I don’t even know how to explain this feeling right now,” said La Salle head coach Sheima Berenji. “Today feels amazing. It’s a dream come true as a coach to win CIF. I’ve been coaching for the last nine to 10 years, so this is one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt, especially with that group right there.”
St. Margaret’s (21-2-4 overall) took control of the match early but the home squad adjusted to the pressure from the Tartans. They nearly got on the board in the 10th minute when Anaise Nugent won a ball deep in St. Margaret’s territory and dumps the ball to a streaking Yocelyn Marquez, whose 17-yard shot was just over the bar.
No team managed to get the ball into the back of the net in the first half, but La Salle’s Anaise Nugent slid a shot past goalkeeper Ava Lentz to put her team on the board in the 49th minute.
The Tartans battled back and scored the equalizer on a set play in the 64th minute. A long free kick bounced in the box and the loose ball was flicked into goal by Juliet Ballard.
The visitors struck again four minutes later when Ballard dribbled past a defender on the left side of the box and fired a shot. Mena made the save but the Jaspar Adams was there to put away the rebound and give St. Margaret’s a 2-1 lead.
Ella Kang nearly extended the Tartans’ lead in the 30th minute with a 19-yard free kick on goal but Mena made a stellar save to keep her team in the match.
“She had a phenomenal game,” Berenji said. “She was very aggressive. She’s our senior. She knew this was our “go all out” game. She gave it her all tonight. She came out ready to compete.”
Not long after, Mediano drew a foul in the box to give the Lancers a penalty kick with 8:49 remaining in the match. Sara Ybarra calmly buried the shot to tie the match, 2-2.
It was a seesaw battle from then out through the remainder of regulation and two overtime periods. Both teams had opportunities but the goalkeepers on both sides rose to the occasion and held the opposition at bay.
The Lancers earned the No. 1 seed in the CIF State Division 4 tournament and will host the winner of Los Angeles Rivera and Westridge on today at 4 p.m.