No Title: La Serna’s Jen Reed stands dejected after Downey defeated the Lancers 2-1 in overtime in the CIF-SS Division 5 championship game at Mission Viejo High School on Saturday. (Keith Birmingham / Staff Photographer)
By John Sherrard
MISSION VIEJO – The third time was a charm for Downey High School’s girls soccer team.
Downey, twice a runner-up, defeated La Serna, 2-1, in sudden-death overtime in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 championship Saturday morning at Mission Viejo High.
The Vikings lost last year’s title game to Desert Christian of Lancaster and in 2008 to Oaks Christian.
Downey (18-7-4) qualified for the Southern California Regionals, which begin Tuesday.
The winning goal was scored in the 85th minute by sophomore midfielder Maritza Acuna.
She picked up the loose ball and got by the defense and easily put it past La Serna goalkeeper Penny Roman.
“It’s so great, so great,” Downey coach Rachel Godfrey said. “It’s so good to score and it’s over. The third time was a charm for us and we made history for our school with our first championship.”
San Gabriel Valley League champion Downey scored only six minutes into the second half on a long kick by senior forward Claudia Lopez. The ball sailed just over the head of Roman.
Trailing 1-0 late in the second half, La Serna rallied to tie the score in the 69th minute.
Freshman forward Elizabeth Fernandez passed the ball to senior defender Savannah Francis, who scored over Downey goalkeeper Adrianna Salazar into the left corner. Francis, who is right-footed, scored with her left foot. Francis, headed to UC Santa Barbara in the fall, was moved up to play forward late in the first half.
“We worked hard as a team and I felt like we could’ve definitely won this game,” Francis said.
Del Rio League champion La Serna (20-6-4), the No. 4 seed, spent most of the first half in Downey territory, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Lancers junior midfielder Jordann Sanders had a chance in the 7th minute on a nice cross from junior forward Moriah Earley. Sanders attempted a header just in front of Salazar, but the ball sailed high over the crossbar.
La Serna controlled much of the offense in the first half, but in the second half the Lancers had numerous attempts off corner kicks that they couldn’t convert.
Sanders and Earley couldn’t connect for the Lancers throughout the game and after the game the two juniors reflected on what could have been.
“We’ve been (playing) together since we were 8 years old,” Sanders said. “Having all the pressure on us was overwhelming, but you have to block everything out and play with heart.
“It seemed like more and more when they were getting control (in the second half) it seemed like we were letting down a little.”
Earley was fed constantly on many passes, but couldn’t get through the Downey defense.
“It was a little frustrating,” Earley said. “It comes down to us working together and we played as individuals when they scored. It doesn’t work without the team.”
“We weren’t finishing our scoring chances,” La Serna coach Tessa Troglia said. “It put a lot of pressure on all of our players and we were able to move the ball and keep pressure on.
“We outplayed them, that’s for sure, but I guess you could say (Downey) outworked us.”
La Serna was making its first CIF-SS title-game appearance since winning the championship in 2008.