Mater Dei's girls soccer team gathers for a prayer after falling at La Costa Canyon, 3-1, in the CIF SoCal Regional final on Saturday.

Mater Dei leaves mark in SoCal Regional loss


CARLSBAD – Mater Dei’s players wrapped their arms around each other in a prayer circle while La Costa Canyon’s girls soccer team put the final touches on their victory celebration in the distance.

The Monarchs’ improbable postseason run ended early Saturday night but their bond as trailblazers on the pitch will live on.

Top-seeded and host La Costa Canyon used its aerial brilliance to score twice on corner-kick headers en route to a 3-1 victory in the CIF Southern California Regional Division II final.

La Costa Canyon (19-4-3) lost in the SoCal final last season but for Mater Dei, the warm Saturday without its leading scorer capped its first appearance in regionals. The Monarchs’ faithful seemed to sense the history as it rose to cheer the Monarchs (15-5-7) afterward.

“The girls took a lot of pride in being a first,” Mater Dei coach Matty West said. “I thought by our effort, they played like champions today.”

Second-seeded Mater Dei went from unranked in the final Division 1 poll to claim its first CIF crown since 2007, the year before the creation of regionals.

“We always get the underdog role and we like changing people’s minds,” said forward Josselyn Cabrera, who tied the score, 1-1, in the first half with her 11th goal. “We wanted to stay together as long as possible. ... We gave it our all."

Mater Dei played without leading scorer Olivia Ware, who suffered a sprained ankle on Tuesday. But Cabrera supplied a much-needed boost in the 27th minute as she scored on a rebound after goalie Gabrielle Derosier knocked out a cross into the penalty box. Defender Julia Ware helped create the chance by charging a potential clearance by the Mavericks and extending the attack.

Cabrera’s strike, which bounced in off the bottom of the crossbar, responded to a penalty-shot goal in the third minute by forward Hayley Mayne, who was pushed down in the penalty box.

“It got us back to a state where we believed,” West said of Cabrera’s goal.

Mater Dei goalie Madison Puliafico made spectacular saves in the 18th minute against Mayne on a counterattack and in the 24th minute with her foot against Danielle Goad on pass into the box.

"Madi was magnificent today," Cabrera said.

But after the equalizer by Cabrera, La Costa Canyon’s Megan Grant scored on a leaping header at the far post on a corner kick just before the end of the first half. Mater Dei held the possession advantage to open the second half but La Costa Canyon’s Hadley Sbrega redirected another corner with a snapping header close to the front post in the 62nd minute.

“This team is really unique … in that we have a lot of girls who are strong in the air and confident in the air,” said La Costa coach Natalie Elkind, whose team scored on corner kicks taken by defender Kallie Kampfl.

But in its own way, Mater Dei's squad proved to be unique, too. In a sign of how well the Monarchs played in the second half, Sbrega's header was La Costa's only shot in the final 40 minutes.

"Couldn't be more proud of our girls," West said. "It (was) such a wonderful ride. What we talked about and what we did are just amazing for the soccer program, for the school and especially for the girls."

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