GIRLS’ SOCCER: Behind senior’s two scores, Oaks Christian captures Div. III regional championship.
DOWNEY — Ally Courtnall’s soccer career at Oaks Christian produced a pair of Southern Section titles, included more postseason goals than any player in school history and helped her secure a scholarship to UCLA.
Courtnall’s journey finally reached its destination Saturday, preventing Flintridge Sacred Heart from achieving the program’s ultimate goal.
The senior striker scored twice and assisted on Bianca Deardorff’s goal in the first 18 minutes, helping the Lions — ranked No. 50 nationally by ESPN/Rise Magazine — capture their first Southern California Div. III regional title with a 3-1 victory at Warren High, denying top-ranked Flintridge Sacred Heart from repeating as champion.
“It’s the best one I’ve gone through thus far, and I couldn’t have asked for better people and better coaches to share it with,” Courtnall said. “I feel like it’s finally complete. Now, it’s really like a finished story and it couldn’t have ended in a better way.”
Courtnall finished her career unbeaten in 19 postseason matches, scoring 22 goals. Three of the Lions’ five playoff defeats in program history came without Courtnall in the lineup, including a 2-0 setback to The Bishop’s School of La Jolla in the 2008 Div. III regional final.
After missing the regional championship her freshman year because of Olympic Developmental Program commitments,
the Canadian 17-under national team member was determined to make the most of her second chance, scoring in the third and 18th minutes, along with setting up Deardorff’s goal in between. Mandi Duncan assisted on Courtnall’s first goal, playing a ball from the right sideline near the top of the penalty area.
“When we got that first goal, we were like, `Yes, we can do this. We are just as good, if not better than they are and we can keep up with them,”‘ said Courtnall, who finished the season with 30 goals and 17 assists.
“We were prepared to be up and keep the lead or to be down and come back, but I don’t think we were expecting to get one in that early in the game.”
Flintridge Sacred Heart (23-2-1) regrouped following the early deficit to control possession and mount an attack against the Lions (26-2-1), who were minus four players, including midfielders Rachel Conners and Nicole Kawamoto. But an unfavorable situation quickly took a turn for the worse for the Tologs, who lost leading scorer Katie Johnson (23 goals, 12assists) in the 10th minute when the junior suffered a left ACL injury sprinting to track down the ball.
With midfielders Jillian Jacobs (SAT testing) and Krista Meaglia (confirmation class) missing the match and defender Kayla Mills (leg inury) unable to play, Johnson’s absence made an already thin Flintridge Sacred Heart lineup more vulnerable, and Courtnall and Deardorff took advantage.
“It was like a mental thing (losing Katie), but we did our best to keep our heads up and keep playing. Obviously we didn’t want it to be this way, but there’s nothing we could do about it,” Tologs senior defender Natalie Zeenni said. “All of us are exhausted. It’s been a really long season and that extra step, we just couldn’t complete it (Saturday). I think our entire team would do anything to replay this game, but we can’t.”
Courtnall’s speed continued to keep the Tologs on their heels, as her assist on Deardorff’s goal in the 16th minute and finish on an Oaks Christian counterattack less than three minutes later gave her 12 goals — increasing her career total to 77 — and four assists in her final five matches.
“(Our coaches) told us she was a good player, but I didn’t know she was that good,” Zeenni said. “Props to her, she’s great. She’s an amazing player, she’s fast and technical, so we didn’t expect that at all … When she’s gone, she’s gone.”
Although Tera Trujillo converted a 30-yard free kick in the 66th minute, Flintridge Sacred Heart, despite bolstering its attack with Alexa Montgomery, Katelyn Almeida and Zeenni, couldn’t pull any closer against a Brittani Gardella-led defense, with Oaks Christian’s Sydney Socquet making eight saves. Both teams also had second-half goals disallowed, with Deardorff ruled offsides before her header crossed the line in the 50th minute and Hailey James’ goal taken away in the 75th after the ball rolled out of bounds before Montgomery crossed it in front of the net.
“We wanted to come out and show them we are the team that deserves it,” said Gardella, the only athlete in school history to be a member of both regional and state title teams, running on the Lions’ Div. IV state-winning cross-country lineup in 2007.
“I was talking with Ally and (fellow senior Jaci Mello) about how great it is for us to be here three years later and to have another chance to end this with a win, to end it on the right note. It’s just amazing.”
Oaks Christian extended its winning streak to 20 in a row, snapped the Tologs’ run at 11 consecutive victories and denied Flintridge Sacred Heart — which had allowed three combined goals in its first seven postseason matches — a likely No. 1 national ranking.
“If somebody had told me back in November that you’d win the Mission League, you’d win CIF Division I and then you’d lose in the regional final, I would’ve taken that deal,” Tologs co-coach Frank Pace said.
Flintridge can’t keep up with Oaks Christian
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.”