By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
At this point, teams mirror each other so much the similarities are almost eery.
Take for example the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and Esperanza girls soccer teams, which meet at 3 today in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Esperanza High of Anaheim.
For starters, the Tologs (19-1-1) and the Aztecs (21-2-4) are ranked nationally by ESPN Rise. Flintridge Sacred Heart is No. 14 and Esperanza is No. 11, respectively, In the Southern Section, the Tologs are seeded No. 3 and the Aztecs No. 2.
When Flintridge Sacred Heart co-head coach Frank Pace says the Division 1 playoffs are “the most rigorous tournament in America,” he’s not kidding. The other semifinal bracket pits No. 4-nationally ranked San Clemente against No. 25 Santa Margarita.
Esperanza last season beat San Clemente twice in the playoffs, first to win the Division 1 title and then in the Southern California State Division 1 Regional championship game, both by scores of 1-0. Flintridge Sacred Heart, ousted in the semifinals by Beckman last season, went on to win the Southern California State Division 3 Regional title.
Esperanza this season saw its 46-game unbeaten streak snapped and Flintridge Sacred Heart’s 4-3 loss to Mission League rival Harvard Westlake snapped its 35-game unbeaten streak.
As the playoffs progress confidence sky rockets as well, and success at this stage of the season is nothing new.
What makes Flintridge Sacred Heart unique is its young but experienced squad, which three years ago lost to eventual Division 2 champion Saugus before jumping to Division 1 last season.
“We embrace the jump,” said Pace, whose Tologs advanced after beating No. 3 nationally-ranked Tesoro, 3-1. “We want to play the best teams. Our girls’ fun is measuring themselves against the best.”
And with experience comes poise.
“Both teams know how to win in pressure situations,” Pace said.
With so many similarities, it begs the question – what will it take to win and advance to this weekend’s title game?
Pace didn’t hesitate.
“The team that puts second and third effort more consistently for 80 minutes will end up winning the game,” Pace said. “Mistakes are human nature. The greatest athletes in the world make mistakes, but whichever team capitalizes on the team’s mistakes will come out ahead.”
at Marshall, 3 p.m.
The Eagles (14-5-1) hope their dream run remains alive when Animo Leadership (11-3-1) visits today in the semifinals match.
Marshall needed extra time to dispatch Citrus Valley on penalty kicks 5-4 after a scoreless tie.
Isabel Robles leads the Eagles in scoring with 20 goals and six assists. Fellow freshman Roxana Hernandez has 11 goals and four assists.
Animo Leadership advanced with a 2-1 victory over Desert Hot Springs.