Using different but equally effective methods to achieve their goals (literally), J.Serra and La Salle captured CIF-Southern Section girls’ soccer divisional championships Feb. 23.

Meanwhile, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy (Division 3 girls) and Cathedral (Division 1 boys) came up just short in their title quests, each losing by 1-0 decisions. A breakdown of each final:

D-1 Girls: J.Serra capped an undefeated season by trouncing Los Alamitos 3-0 in the Division 1 final at Warren High School in Downey, recording their third straight CIF-SS title under the leadership of coach Greg Baker.

The top-seeded Lions of San Juan Capistrano (20-0-3) were also playing a previously unbeaten team in second-seeded Los Alamitos (25-1-5) that was actually ranked ahead of J.Serra nationally by Maxpreps (No. 3, to J.Serra’s No. 8) before the game.

But first-half goals by Jennifer Alvarado (assisted by Rachel Bastone) and Bella Beltran (from Samantha Williams) put J.Serra up 2-0, and Isabella D’Aquila, the 2018 D-1 Player of the Year, tallied late in the match for icing on the victory cake. Goalkeeper Ryan Campbell led a solid defensive effort that kept Los Alamitos off the scoreboard.

D-4 Girls: Playing at home in Pasadena, fifth-seeded La Salle (18-5) emerged triumphant in a longer-than-expected penalty kick shootout with heavily-favored St. Margaret’s Episcopal (20-2-4), to win their second-ever CIF title, the first since winning Division IV in 2007.

The match featured a thrilling second half after a scoreless first half. Regulation ended in a 2-2 tie, thanks to a goal by La Salle sophomore Sara Ybarra with eight minutes remaining.

Coach Sheima Berenji’s Lancers then took a 3-2 lead in penalty kicks that appeared to give them a win. But, after trophies and plaques had been awarded, officials determined La Salle needed yet one more successful kick for the title, which junior Tatum Mediano delivered to make everything official.

D-3 Girls: Seeking its first CIF title since the 2011 D-1 championship, tenth-seeded Flintridge Sacred Heart (11-5-3) gave top-seeded Oak Hills (22-2-2) all it could handle in the match at St. Francis High School.

But a goal in the 21st minute was enough for Oak Hills to gain the 1-0 victory, holding off a determined Tolog squad that dominated the second half but couldn’t break through.

D-1 Boys: For the second straight year, Cathedral High School was edged in the D-1 final, losing 1-0 to San Clemente fifth-seeded San Clemente (22-2-4) on a first-half goal.

The second-seeded Phantoms (21-3-2), who last won a CIF title (D-3) in 2015, were beaten last year by Santa Barbara, 3-2 on penalty kicks, in the D-1 final.

SoCal Regionals

With CIF-SS titles decided, the CIF Southern California Regionals are up next, with last weekend’s three finalists in the girls’ championship matches each in the tournament that starts Feb. 26 with first-round matches.

In Division I, No. 1 J.Serra plays No. 8 San Luis Obispo; in Division III, No. 2 Flintridge Sacred Heart plays No. 7 New West Charter; and in Division IV, No. 1 La Salle has a first-round bye.

The Boys’ Division I matches include No. 3 Cathedral vs. No. 6 Point Loma, and No. 4 Birmingham vs. No. 5 Mater Dei. In Division V, No. 3 La Puente plays No. 6 Bishop Diego.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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