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NICK AGRO, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Foothill senior Meridian Lee runs down the field during the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs against Newport Harbor at Irvine High School.

Foothill, Mater Dei advance to O.C. championship game

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

IRVINE – Losing three of four to end the regular season did not give Foothill’s girls lacrosse team a wave of momentum heading to the playoffs.

But the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs began and it appears the Knights have awakened as the defending champions dominated possession in defeating 10th-seeded Newport Harbor, 5-1, Saturday in a semifinal at Irvine High.

Third-seeded Foothill (13-8) will oppose top-seeded Mater Dei in the title game at Trabuco Hills High on Wednesday. The final will start at 5 p.m.

“It feels good, but we feel like it’s a lot of pressure to stay on it for this year as we did last year,” Knights midfielder Brie Ratkevich said of returning to the final. “We know the feeling of winning, and we want to be there again.”

Ratkevich had a goal and an assist to lead the Knights’ attack. Emma Gaughran, Carly Escalette, Ava Brand and Meridian Lee had a goal apiece.

Gaughran opened the scoring on a nice connection from Ratkevich.

Midway through the first half, the Sailors (12-7) tied it on an unassisted goal by Katie Hendrix.

After Escalette broke the tie with 9:49 left in the half, the Knights turned to ball control to prevent Newport Harbor from rallying. Foothill was efficient in putting 13 of their 15 shot attempts on goal.

Hannah Sanders made eight saves to keep the Sailors in it, but Newport Harbor couldn’t get much going on the offensive end.

Foothill led, 3-1, at halftime.

In the second half, Hannah Upshaw made back-to-back stops inside of 8 yards against Rylie Siegfried. Upshaw made five of her six saves in the second half.

In the final, Foothill will try to stop a Mater Dei team that averages 16 goals per game and wins 69 percent of its draws.

“Mater Dei has a lot of really good players, and they have a good attack,” Upshaw said. “When our communication is on, we bring a really good defense. We’ve stopped really good players.”

Also in the semifinals:

No. 1 Mater Dei 12, No. 4 Corona del Mar 7: Maddi Hooks scored three minutes into the game, and the Monarchs (19-0) led wire-to-wire in advancing to the championship game.

Mackenzie Wallevand had six goals and two assists to lead the Monarchs. Grace Houser added a hat trick and three assists.

Paige Nelson scored twice for the Sea Kings (18-3). Kennedy Mulvaney recorded a goal and an assist.


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