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LCC girls turn away Torrey Pines for CIF Open Division soccer crown

The 2021 CIF Open Division champs
The 2021 CIF Open Division champs
(Ken Grosse)

Riding its staunch defense, the La Costa Canyon girls soccer team became the first to win three CIF Open Division championships when it stonewalled Torrey Pines, 2-0, Friday night, May 28, at Mission Bay High School.

The victory improved LCC’s record to 13-2-3 and gave the Mavericks their first section title since they won the first two, played in 2014 and ’15. They entered post-season play as the No. 3 seed, after tying with Torrey Pines atop the Coastal League standings, and reached the final by beating No. 6 Carlsbad (3-0) and No. 2 Eastlake (2-0). Torrey Pines (11-4-5), the No. 4 seed, knocked off fifth-seeded Academy of Our Lady of Peace (2-0) and top-seeded Cathedral Catholic (1-0) to gain a rematch with LCC. The Falcons also had a pair of Open crowns (2016-17).

Senior Courtney Hilliard (22) was a key two-way player for the Mavericks.
Senior Courtney Hilliard (22) was a key two-way player for the Mavericks.
(Ken Grosse)

The Mavericks defeated Torrey twice during the regular season, producing a clean sheet on both occasions, had surrendered just seven goals all year and were riding a string of eight consecutive shutouts coming into Friday night’s showdown.

Second-year Head Coach Ryan Morissey, who last year guided La Costa Canyon to an Open Division bracket berth for the first time since 2016, entered the contest believing his team’s defensive prowess could carry the evening.

“Confident but not cocky,” was the way Morissey described his side in the pre-game. “They hadn’t scored a goal against us in the first two games so we were confident that they wouldn’t break us down. If we could score, we would be in good shape.”

His squad did not let him down—but they had to overcome a valiant effort by the Falcons, who showed enough speed on the wings in the early going to establish a potential counterattacking threat. In the 15th minute, however, LCC turned a Torrey Pines misplay into the night’s first decisive moment.

Torrey Pines freshman Ella Emri
Torrey Pines freshman Ella Emri
(Ken Grosse)

Trying to clear a through ball, a moment of indecision between Falcon goalkeeper Shayna Ross and one of her defenders led to an errant kick that was deflected back towards the goal by pressing LCC forward Peyton Galli. The senior (Galli) had tallied her first goal of the season in the May 12 game against Torrey Pines and she became a thorn in the Falcons’ side once again, alertly jumping on the loose ball and tapping it into the net to give her club a 1-0 edge. It changed the dynamic of the game

Although there was plenty of time left, Torrey’s task suddenly became much more daunting. Their Head Coach, Martyn Hansford admitted as much. “Goals change momentum for one or both teams and against a good team you don’t want to concede the first goal,” said Hanford. “It was early enough that there was no need to panic and I thought we responded positively. But you know that if you can’t get it back to level, at some point you’re going to have to chase it, get some players forward and potentially leave yourself a little vulnerable.”

GoalkeeperJenna Gerraughty and Ryann Cull share a post-game moment.
GoalkeeperJenna Gerraughty and Ryann Cull share a post-game moment.
(Ken Grosse)

It was still a one-goal margin at halftime and the Mavs played defense like their lives depended on it in the final 40 minutes of what evolved into a very physical, sometimes chippy affair. With less than 20 minutes to go, a perfectly executed set piece gave LCC some breathing room. Kaitlyn Farley got on the end of freshman Annie Dehaan’s corner kick, recording the fourth goal of her senior season.

“No one was marking me so I made my run early and was screaming my head off for the ball and it got to me,” said Farley, a third-year varsity player. “I was looking front post and when I saw the ball coming and how open I was, I just tried to head it back post.

“It was important because it gave us some comfort and diminished their hopes a little bit. From there, we knew we just had to be solid on defense to win.”

Senior Carolina Nelson (5) of Torrey Pines
Senior Carolina Nelson (5) of Torrey Pines
(Ken Grosse)

With a two-goal advantage it became a matter of hunkering down and playing to their strength.

No problem there for the Mavs. Anchored by junior goalkeeper Jenna Gerraughty and a backline of Annie and Casey Dehaan, Ryann Cull and Farley the defense stymied Torrey Pines down the stretch. Morissey’s lineup also got robust play in the midfield driven by dependably rugged senior Courtney Hilliard, also the team’s leading goal-scorer. Hilliard felt there was more at work than just talent and tactics.

“I think we just gave all of our heart,” she said. “They’re such a good team. We came in knowing that and just gave it our all.

LCC senior midfielder Jordan Lamoureux
LCC senior midfielder Jordan Lamoureux
(Ken Grosse)

“This team is so special and we’ve said that from the beginning. The team chemistry throughout a year of practice and games has always been there. This was our year and we knew it—we love each other and are really a family.”

Hansford, whose team has earned a place in the Open Division playoffs in all eight of years of its existence, knows what it takes to win and had praise for his team and this year’s champions.

“We played some really good football and have come a long way since day one,” said Hansford. “We were able to beat the No. 1 seed but came up short tonight. I think we can all look back with no regret.

“You have to give LCC credit. They have a lot of athleticism, are very physical and make games uncomfortable for opponents. They’re very good at what they do, worked super hard and had a super season—it’s always a great rivalry.”

Looking at the big picture, Morissey noted the unprecedented nature of the year and found Friday’s result a fitting outcome.

“I’m so proud of all our girls,” Morissey said. “It was also nice to win it for the school and community—for these kids, their families, this kind of erases a lot of the negative aspects of this Covid year.

“Tonight was the final but this was something we were preparing for all year. It’s all about the kids and it was good to see everything come to fruition by just doing what we’ve been preaching all along—work hard, have fun.”

Both schools will be competing in this week’s CIF Southern California Regional tournament starting Tuesday, June 1, at 5 p.m.. La Costa Canyon will host Corona Santiago while Torrey Pines will travel to meet undefeated Harvard-Westlake.


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