Santa Margarita's Madison Louderback, right, reaches to gain control of the ball against Bishop Amat's Nicole Diaz during a Southern California Regional Division III playoff game at Santiago Canyon College on Tuesday.

Santa Margarita enjoys this surprise


ORANGE – The opportunity came as an unexpected surprise.

Now the Santa Margarita girls soccer team is trying to make the most of its new life in the Southern California Regional.

The Eagles, who thought their season had ended with a loss in the CIF-SS playoffs on Feb. 26, received goals from Taylor Gather, Evann Furlong and Maggie Ghotbi as they defeated Bishop Amat of La Puente, 3-1, in the opening round of the Division III regional on Tuesday at Santiago Canyon College.

The Eagles advance to face top-seeded Cathedral Catholic of San Diego (24-4-2) in a regional semifinal on Thursday. The game will be at Cathedral Catholic.

Santa Margarita coach Chuck Morales acknowledged that he was “surprised” to learn Sunday that the Eagles had been awarded a spot in the regional playoffs. They had been knocked out of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs in the quarterfinals, and since then he had moved on to his springtime duties as coach of Santa Margarita’s boys golf team.

“I didn’t understand how we qualified, although we were always playing at a high level,” Morales said.

Given a chance where they could win a Southern California title, Morales said the Eagles adopted a simple plan. “Our approach was just to come out with a positive result,” he said.

The Eagles struck for the only goal of the first half in the 28th minute. Gather, a junior varsity player called up to play in the game, saw the ball ricochet off the right post. It came to the other side of the goal, where she cashed in.

Defenders Alexandra Barber, Sarah Clayton and Jordan Christensen kept the Lancers (19-9-0) from getting clear shots against Eagles goalkeepers Christina Kosmala and Michelle Reiss.

Furlong scored in the 66th minute and Ghotbi added a goal in the 78th.

Furlong said Santa Margarita’s players were stunned by their selection into the regional tournament.

“We were super surprised at first,” she said. “It’s really exciting because we were upset about our seniors leaving, but now we get another chance (to play with them). Hopefully we win it all.”

Cathedral Catholic (24-4-2) defeated Verdugo Hills of Tujunga, 9-0, on Tuesday.

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