Cathedral Catholic girls soccer opens repeat title quest with 3-0 CIF win over San Marcos

Junior Brooke Miller (16) enjoying the moment after Sophia Aragon's (22) goal.
Junior Brooke Miller (16) enjoying the moment after Sophia Aragon’s (22) goal.
(Ken Grosse)

Overcoming a slow start Tuesday, May 18, top-seeded Cathedral Catholic’s defending CIF Open Division champion girls soccer team made a successful first step towards making it two-in-a-row, knocking off visiting No. 8 seed San Marcos, 3-0.

The victory lifted the Dons to 11-1-4 overall and moves them into a semi-final match-up where they will host Torrey Pines High School Tuesday, May 25 at 5 p.m. San Marcos finishes its season 11-3-3.

The outcome didn’t feel like a three-goal shutout to Cathedral’s 10-time CIF champion

Cathedral Catholic's Claire Curran (9) unleashes the shot that resulted in the game's first goal.
Cathedral Catholic’s Claire Curran (9) unleashes the shot that resulted in the game’s first goal.
(Ken Grosse)

Head Coach Dawn Lee. “No…never…not at all and even when they got that free kick with maybe a minute left,l I was freaking out until I realized that even if they scored it would be alright,” said Lee when asked the question post game. “They lost to us in this same first round game last year and we are the returning champion so everyone wants to be the team that beats you.

“We knew that they would come out on fire. We were a little bit lax but I knew if we just calmed it down and started playing our game we could get one and turn things around.”

The visiting Knights, who went undefeated while winning the Palomar League title, took charge from the opening whistle, consistently winning 50-50 balls and playing a more physical style. They created three or four dangerous chances in the first 15 minutes but couldn’t capitalize. Cathedral tightened up defensively and the mood of the game changed with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half.

Head Coach Dawn Lee and her squad are shooting for back-to-back CIF Open Division banners.
Head Coach Dawn Lee and her squad are shooting for back-to-back CIF Open Division banners.
(Ken Grosse)

Sophomore forward Claire Curran, who was an offensive pain for San Marcos all day, recovered a contested ball in the San Marcos end, generated some space and launched a left-footed drive from about 30 yds. out that beat San Marcos keeper Erica Fox to the right corner. It was her sixth of the season.

“Tatum (Alanis) passed me the ball and I turned it over but I saw the defender had a bad touch so I sort of pressed her,” recalled Curran, who, as per usual, was an early sub off the bench. “I got the ball back and just tried to put it on frame—I normally don’t shoot from that distance and went for placement over power.”

Cathedral teammates celebrate freshman Tatum Alanis's (back to camera) goal.
Cathedral teammates celebrate freshman Tatum Alanis’s (back to camera) goal.
(Ken Grosse)

In light of the way the game was progressing, Lee felt that Curran played her role to perfection and the goal was the afternoon’s turning point. “Claire’s job is to get in there, pick up the tempo and make stuff happen and that’s exactly what she did today,” said Lee. “Getting that first one was key, especially for us to put one in against a very good team that had been controlling the game. You could see the shoulders drop a little bit on their side.”

Fifteen minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Delaney Diltz uncorked one of her patented throw-ins that landed in the box, creating chaos in front of the goal. Out of the scrum, sophomore Kate Dalton, who had just come on, deftly back-flipped the ball, popping it up for the oncoming Alanis and the freshman buried a volley from short range. That made it 2-0 Cathedral and put a serious dent in any comeback hopes the Knights may have possessed.

Senior Sophia Aragon takes aim at the San Marcos goal.
Senior Sophia Aragon takes aim at the San Marcos goal.
(Ken Grosse)

The Dons added an insurance goal in extra time as senior Sophia Aragon punched a left-footer off the right post for her sixth on the year. The defense, after a few scary moments in the opening minutes, was staunch most of the day, posting its 10th shutout (in 16 games, the Dons have surrendered just seven goals). Lee was quick to give major credit to that aspect.

“As a coach, I’ve always prided myself on having a strong defense and, for us, everything starts from there,” said Lee. “It helps build a lot of confidence when you know you have a strong back line.” The anchor of that group against San Marcos was senior goalkeeper Justy Carruthers who collected 10 saves and was called on to make a couple of circus stops at the onset of the contest.

There’s still two to go, but Lee was more than a little glad to see the first playoff game in the rear view mirror. “Getting that result is like ‘OK, we can take a deep breath and move forward,’ “ Lee said. “I mean you definitely don’t want to get knocked out in the first round when you’re the defending champion.”