A week after suffering its toughest loss of the season, the Pasadena Poly High School girls soccer team has a chance to end the season in style.
The Panthers will again be playing for championship hardware. This time, the CIF State Division 3 Southern California Regional championship against Oaks Christian at 10:30 a.m. at Warren High in Downey.
“It’s a real honor to be playing at this point,” Poly coach Pat Gray said. “Not many teams get the opportunity to play in two finals, let alone one. It’s the dream of most teams to play in a final or a championship of some kind, and we have the opportunity to play in two of them.
“Once we made it to the regional finals, it felt like a real honor for us to still be playing soccer when not to many high school teams are still playing right now in Southern California.”
Poly enters Saturday’s game at 22-2-1. The Panthers blasted University Prep in the first round of the state playoffs on Tuesday, then dispatched of St. Bonaventure on Thursday with a 2-1 win.
Last Saturday, Bishop Amat handed Poly only its second loss of the season with a 4-2 setback in the Southern Section Division 2 championship game. Oaks Christian is a two-time defending state champion, but lost to Poly last week, 4-2, in the semifinals of the Southern Section playoffs.
In that game, Poly standout Sarah Mendenhall injured her right knee and is out for the season. But during warmups, Oaks Christian defender Abbey King, who is actually a friend of Mendenhall, suffered a knee injury and has not played since. She’s not expected to play today, either.
Noel Askins, Becca Hanel and Kayla Valencia have picked up the slack offensively for the Panthers, who have stayed as explosive as ever offensively despite not having Mendenhall.
The difficult task for Poly today is bucking the old cliche about how beating the same team twice in the same season. The Panthers had little trouble with Oaks Christian, thanks to a dominant second half in which the Lions had precious few scoring chances.
“I’ve heard that cliche, but as I was telling the girls, the games have to be played and it doesn’t really matter who’s across from us,” Gray said. “I thought the first time that we played Oaks Christian, they were an outstanding team and they’ll be an outstanding team tomorrow.”