By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MISSION VIEJO – A shutout appeared in sight for the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls soccer team.
The only problem was the No. 3-seeded Tologs were about to become part of the statistic.
Enter Krista Meaglia.
In the 68th minute, the sophomore midfielder saw the key play develop from midfield as Jillian Jacobs sent an outlet pass to Katie Johnson. She slipped a pass past two defenders to an open Meaglia, who sent a soft shot past San Clemente goalkeeper Olivia Engelsman into the left post, giving Flintridge Sacred Heart a 1-0 win to claim its first CIF-Southern Section Division 1 championship Friday night at Mission Viejo High.
It was the proverbial tale of two halves for the Tologs (21-1-1), the 2010 Southern California Division III regional champions, who now await this year’s regional playoffs. Pairings will be announced Sunday.
Flintridge Sacred Heart co-head coach Frank Pace said the three-hour bus ride, coupled with an injury to Kayla Mills, who injured her quad during warmups, led to an uneventful first half. The Tologs had no shots on goal.
“It really took us a while to adjust to the speed of play without Kayla,” Pace said. “We’ve been trying combinations all year, and we didn’t settle on combinations until eight games ago and finally found a combination that worked for us.”
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Second-half adjustments on the Tologs’ part paved the way for more spacing, particularly in the middle, allowing Johnson (20 goals, 11 assists) to wreak havoc. Tologs goalkeeper Lindsey Espe kept her team within striking distance, recording seven gritty saves.
“Katie played one of her better games of the season, partially because she was working her tail off,” said Pace, whose Tologs recorded their third shutout of the playoffs. “But the other part because she didn’t have four people collapsing on her. It created more space for Katie, and Katie’s such a threat. If they were doubling her, that was going to create space for somebody else.”
“It bounced and I ran into my opportunity,” Johnson said. “(Jacobs) perfectly placed it. She had great composure on the ball today.”
Meaglia said it was only a matter of time until the Tologs discovered their flow of the game, which finally came in the second half.
“It was kind of intimidating out there in the first half,” Meaglia said. “We felt we got our butts kicked in the first half, and came back in the second half.”
As for the goal, Meaglia wasn’t trying to do anything fancy, as long as she got contact on the ball.
“It was a kick with the laces placed, not very hard,” Meaglia said.
“It just went past (the goalkeeper), hit the post and went in.”
Only a sophomore, Meaglia showed a glimpse of what’s to come.
“We love Krista,” Tologs co-head coach Kathy Desmond said. “I said to (assistant coach Rebecca Hidalgo) she needs to be more dynamic. She is in her own way. She’s an amazing natural talent you can’t coach.”