Late goal foils Torrey Pines in CIF field hockey final
Saturday night’s CIF Open Division field hockey championship at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista was a classic version of the cliché “a game neither team deserved to lose.” In other words, a heavyweight showdown that lived up to the title.
Third-seeded Torrey Pines gave No. 1 seed and two-time defending Open Division title holder all it could handle for 59 minutes-plus as the two schools battled up-and-down the field in a scoreless match-up that was as tense as it was entertaining.
Unfortunately for the Falcons (the TP edition), Scripps Ranch made good use of the final minute of regulation. After earning just one penalty corner for the entirety of the contest, they received two in the last 60 seconds. The second came after a player went to the ground in front of the goal and it was only after more than two minutes, when she was able to get up, that the call was made.
Scripps made a short entry pass to the circle boundary to the left of the goal. A subsequent shot on goal was tipped in by senior captain Kelsey McGrattan with 41 seconds remaining. The resilient Falcons (TP) responded immediately moving up the field after the restart and securing their 11th penalty corner of the contest.
The storybook ending was not to be, however and Torrey Pines will have to be content with knowing they posted a superb 23-4 mark on the year, went undefeated to win the Avocado League West crown, knocked out La Jolla (2-0) and Poway (1-0) to reach the CIF Open Division finals for the first time since 2015 and then pushed an formidable adversary to the brink before succumbing, even after senior star Philine Klas went down with a knee injury a third of the way through the final quarter.
Third-year Torrey Pines Head Coach Courtney Spleen was understandably a combination of disappointed, philosophical and proud in the immediate aftermath. “It’s really tough, to be honest, because I felt like we were dominating—more corners, shots and opportunities,” said Spleen, whose team reached the CIF semi-finals in 2019 (there were no playoffs last year due to the pandemic). “But you know what, it only takes one to win and they were able to put it away.
“Everybody on both sides was working hard, fighting hard—Scripps put up a heck of a fight, played great defense and they executed at the end when they had it in the circle.
“I’ve got to give my girls a lot of credit. Even when Philine went out, even when Scripps scored, we never quit. At the end, we took it down and were able to get a corner. That’s all you can ask for—that they never give up.”
During a string of three consecutive penalty corners awarded in ninth minute of the last period, standout junior midfielder Smilla Klas (Philine’s younger sister) did everything but dent the scoreboard, sending low blasts just outside both sides of the cage and hitting the right post with another.
That sequence was characteristic of the effort made by Torrey on the night, a performance that could reasonably represent a coming of age for the program under Spleen. Senior Caitlin Tresse took the long view when talking postgame.
“Going in, everybody seemed to know it was going to be close and that’s how it turned out, I think it was a great game.” said Tresse, who seemed to be involved in most of the Falcons’ best offensive pieces. “I think both teams really mentally put their all into it and it could have gone either way.
“Sure, in the moment it was frustrating and disappointing not to be able to cash in on some of our opportunities but when you step back after the game, look at how far we’ve come—we’ve grown so much and worked so hard—it’s difficult to be frustrated about those little misses. Instead of being frustrated, I’m just proud, in general, and I think all of my teammates are proud of each other.”
The two teams met back in September and Scripps Ranch humbled Torrey, 5-0. For a team that only surrendered 20 goals 27 games, it may have been a bit of a jolt, but it was an outcome that may have put that day’s losers on the track that got them to the biggest game of the season.
“When we played them the first time, it was early in the season and we had some kinks to smooth out,” recalled Spleen. “We needed to smooth out our defense a lot. We had some defenders who weren’t very experienced as starters and it took time for them to develop confidence in what they were being asked to do. The improvement they made showed tonight.
“One of our goals, something we talked about a lot, was to work for a full 60 minutes and I thought our team did that. I was really pleased with their overall effort and how aggressive they were. They played hard, but clean.”
For Scripps Ranch, it was their 13th CIF field hockey title, all under Head Coach Jane Morrill, and with this most recent three-peat in hand, it may be fair to say that her team is now the measuring stick in the San Diego section. The veteran mentor talked about the game and her program’s recipe for success following the awards ceremony.
“This was two deserving teams out there tonight,” said Morrill. “Torrey Pines played an outstanding game and it was going to be a matter of who could drop it in first—I’m happy it was us.
“We work hard—in the off-season and during the season. You reap what you sow and you’ve got to have the kids who want to play—want to play for you as much as themselves. The chemistry is very important.”
Spleen certainly had the Scripps Ranch model in view when she talked about what this season’s accomplishments meant about her program. “I hope it says we’re trying to build it in the right direction. We want to be where Scripps Ranch is and what we did this year is one more step in that direction.”
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