It will be a showdown between No. 1 and No. 2 Friday, Feb. 28, when top-seeded Cathedral Catholic (21-2-3) and second-seeded defending champion Carlsbad (19-4-1) collide in the finals of the 2020 CIF Open Division girls soccer championship game at Mission Bay High School. Kick off is set for 5 p.m.
Coach Dawn Lee’s Cathedral Catholic side earned its berth in the section’s biggest game by putting away fifth-seeded Eastlake, 1-0, at home Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 25, winning its 13th in a row. Lee has won over 400 games and collected eight section banners during her tenure steering the Dons but this will be her first shot at an Open title. They were eliminated in the semi-finals a year ago.
“It’s so exciting, I still haven’t completely processed it,” said Lee Tuesday night. “I’m so proud of the girls and super happy for them.
“I liked the fight and resilience I saw today and the way we were able to put away the opportunity when we had it.”
Both teams had several first half chances. It took a big effort by Don keeper Justy Carruthers to keep the Titans out of the goal in the 14th minute and at 22:40, Cathedral’s Western League Player of the Year Sophia Aragon got pulled down in the box. The ensuing penalty kick by sophomore Mia Adams was blocked and she sent the rebound wide.
It was still a scoreless draw with 4:29 in the first half when the Dons dented the scoreboard. A big throw-in from just inside the end line by specialist Delaney Diltz was knocked down in the box and it bounced to junior Caylee Hornaday right beyond the six-yard box. Hornaday played it to her own feet and volleyed a short range shot that ricocheted from the crossbar, off the outstretched hands of Eastlake keeper Leilani Pommato and into the net.
That would be all the home team needed although things got a tad ticklish in the final 40 minutes as Eastlake put one shot off the post and Cathedral Catholic got a huge save by junior Julia Walsh who got second half duties, splitting time with Carruthers in goal.
“Particularly in the second half, it was a bit of a frantic game which you can kind of expect at this point of the season,” said Lee. “Every team is fighting tooth-and-nail. It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest game but we had some very good moments.
“That said, we’re winning but can still play better. I’ve seen us play at a higher level than we have in these two playoff games and expect that we’ll be at our best Friday.”
Carlsbad, under first-year Head Coach Katie (Tarrant) Ritchie, defeated Avocado West League rival Torrey Pines, the No. 3 seed, 2-0, at home to secure its shot at a second straight open crown. Junior Lexi Wright, the 2019 CIF Player of the Year and a likely repeater, has 48 goals on the year including both in Tuesday’s semi-final, for a team averaging over three per contest. She’ll be a defensive priority for the Dons.
The Lancers are on an eight-game winning streak, their last defeat a 3-2 decision against Cathedral Catholic on Jan. 24, the only time the two teams have met this season.