This one will smart, for many reasons, the most of which being that – for all its significant past – the San Marino High School girls’ varsity soccer team had never advanced as far as Tuesday’s CIF Division V semifinal game, held on the windswept pitch at Lompoc’s Cabrillo High School. There, the Lady Titans surrendered two early goals and this time couldn’t quite make up the difference, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Conquistadores.
Cabrillo senior Kelsey Sherry bagged goals in the 2nd and 8th minutes to turn the tide in favor of the home team and, try as they might, comeback-prone San Marino couldn’t steal another. Hayley Thompson halved the lead just after halftime, banging in a rebound off Alex Schuster’s dead-on free kick in the 43rd minute, but the Conquistadors netted the game-winner just before an hour’s time to seal the deal and earn a trip to the CIF championship game this weekend.
“This was a tough one to lose, but I am very proud of the team,” said head Coach Jaime Acuna, who when he wasn’t staring off into the unique landscape of California’s central coast alternated duties between consoling his forlorn players and accepting congratulations for a job well done.
After battling from behind in their two previous playoff contests, the Lady Titans almost pulled off another miracle. Just before the break, Thompson unleashed a shot at Conquistador keeper Kiki Miller, but the junior was able to handle the one-hopper. Freshman Mandy Hsu had an opportunity right on the hour, but her left-footed effort off a throw-in went wide of the goal. Senior co-captain Quinta Addis had another opportunity in the 64th minute when she shoveled a rebound past Miller, but the shot was off the frame.
Schuster had two more free kick opportunities: her twenty yarder in the 66th minute threatened the goal before sailing past and just a minute before the final whistle sounded, she made Miller make one last save for the day.
Goalkeeper Sarah Blasher injured her arm deflecting Cabrillo’s first goal and spent the remainder of the first half receiving medical attention. Brooke McCloskey – called into duty for the first time all season – filled in admirably before Blasher returned for the second half.
Schuster anchored the San Marino defense while Thompson, Addis and senior Hope Welder tried to mount a sustained attack against Cabrillo’s big, physical back four, but to only occasional avail.
One for the Ages…
Just earning the 158-mile bus ride to Lompoc was dramatic enough, as the Lady Titans had to erase a one-goal deficit last Thursday against Valley Christian. Thrust into the starting lineup after a season-ending knee injury to starter Ellie Hannan just two days earlier, Blasher surrendered a fifty-yard sun-in-the-eyes goal shortly after the quarterfinal contest at Titan Stadium kicked off.
Thompson evened things up late in the second half with an impressive one-on-one effort, sending the game to two, ten-minute overtime sessions. Neither team was able to score and the semifinal spot came down to penalty kicks.
In order, San Marino’s Alana Hillman, Thompson, Addis, Jordyn Duncan and Welder each potted their opportunity behind keeper Haley Magana.
Blasher saved the day – literally – when she correctly guessed “left” and stonewalled Grayce DeGroot and received a well-earned mugging from teammates and friends alike.
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