By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
DOWNEY – Alexandra Courtnall inherited her speed from her father Russ, who played in the NHL for 15 years, including his final two with the Kings. His daughter used her speed to lead Oaks Christian past top-seeded Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy 3-1 in Saturday’s CIF State Division III Southern California Regional soccer championship at Warren High.
Courtnall first sprinted by Tologs defender Natalie Zeenni to score three minutes into the game, and then got past defender Alexa Montgomery for a goal 15 minutes later to lead the Lions to victory in the region’s lone girls game featuring CIF-Southern Section teams.
“I did not know she was that good,” Zeenni said. “We were completely caught off-guard, which explains the first goal. It is definitely our fault. She is an amazing player.”
Courtnall, who’ll play at UCLA next year and is a member of the Canadian national junior team, took a long diagonal pass from Mandi Duncan three minutes into the game. Zeenni tried grabbing her jersey to slow her down, and Courtnall beat her to the ball for a relatively easy goal.
“I was completely shocked,” Courtnall said. “I did not think we were going to go up that quickly in the game. I heard they were an amazing team, and we were prepared for anything.”
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Last year, Courtnall was fourth in the CIF-SS Division 4 100-meter finals and seventh at 200 meters. She had the fastest 100-meter time (12.0) last year.
“It didn’t surprise us,” Tologs co-coach Frank Pace said. “She was as advertised. All the credit goes to Courtnall.
“She beat us.”
Giving up the quick strike might have been OK for the Tologs, who won the CIF-SS Division 1 title, had disaster not struck seven minutes later.
That’s when top scorer Katie Johnson went down with a possible injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She had space deep in Oaks Christian territory, but went down on her own and clutched her knee.
“I just misplanted wrong, I think,” she said. “I heard a pop.”
The Tologs already were missing their two outside midfielders, with Jillian Jacobs taking her SAT and Krista Meaglia at a religious ceremony. Midfielder Kayla Mills has been unable to play because of injury.
“We came here with no margin for error player-wise, and the player we could least afford to lose when you’re down 1-0 is your leading scorer,” Pace said.
“It was more of a mental thing than a physical thing,” Zeenni said. “We were already down three starters.”
The Lions, who won the CIF-SS Division 4 title, were without four players, including two starters who were at the Olympic Development Program camp.
But they had Courtnall, who’s undefeated in her high school career. She’s missed the past three years of the CIF-SS tournament because of other soccer commitments.
The Tologs, considered the top-ranked team by ESPN/Rise, had to realign their offense when Johnson, who had 23 goals and 12 assists this season, went down.
“Position-wise, we did not have the right people,” Tologs co-coach Kathy Desmond said. “We had people, just not the right positions to put people in. The kids that we didn’t have only affected our options.”
The defenders, however, remained the same, and the Tologs were beaten on counterattacks.
Jaciara Mello sent a long pass downfield, which Courtnall chased down. She and Bianca Deardorff beat the Tologs defense to create a two-on-one opportunity against goalie Lindsey Espe. Deardorff scored off Courtnall’s pass to make it 2-0 15 minutes into the game.
Courtnall then took a pass from Deardorff and outraced Montgomery down the field before scoring. Montgomery tried to slow her down by tugging on her jersey, too.
“Alex is fast, too, and she beat her,” Zeenni said. “She was gone.”
The Tologs began attacking more in the second half, and Tera Trujillo brought the Tologs back to life with a free-kick goal
26 minutes into the half.
They had another opportunity in the 34th minute of the half with Montgomery at the end line. At the last minute, she sent a pass to Haley James on the opposite side of the field. Goalie Sydney Socquet knocked the ball in the air and the Tologs appeared to have scored after a scramble, but the side judge delayed in ruling Montgomery was out of bounds when she passed it to James. Breeana Koemans then just missed on a close shot and a header.
“They didn’t quit,” Desmond said. “They were determined at half they were going to win the game.”
The Tologs lost in last year’s CIF-SS semifinals and dropped down divisions to win the state regional title.
“If at the beginning of the season somebody came up to me and said, `You’re going to win the Mission League and win the CIF Division 1, but you have to come in second in the regionals,’ Kathy and I would have said, `Where do we sign up?’ ” Pace said.
To which Desmond replied, “I’ll coach that team.”