JSerra players and coaches celebrate on the field after winning the CIF-SS Division 1 girls soccer title in Corona, on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

JSerra delivers thrilling finish to win first CIF-SS title


CORONA – There was no shortage of interesting story lines going into the CIF-SS Division 1 girls soccer final between Mater Dei and JSerra on Saturday at Corona High.

The teams are Trinity League rivals and were playing for the third time this season.

JSerra is the county’s top-ranked team and has the county’s top scorer, Isabella D’Aquila.

The Lions were trying to capture their first CIF-SS title in girls soccer, while the Monarchs were aiming for their fifth.

But none of those angles mattered after the Monarchs and Lions played to a 1-1 tie, forcing the match to be decided on penalty kicks. JSerra won the shootout, 5-4, emerging from two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtime periods as CIF champions.

“This is awesome,” JSerra coach Greg Baker said. “To bring the first CIF championship to this school is incredible.”

Mater Dei’s defenders never let D’Aquila out of their sight, but the sophomore forward still got some touches near the goal.

About 15 minutes into the second half, a well-defended D’Aquila took a shot that sailed wide of the goal.

A few minutes later, D’Aquila freed herself from the Monarchs’ defenders and wasn’t denied. The sophomore forward scored on a well-placed kick to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.

“It was probably one of the hardest games I’ve played,” D’Aquila said. “It was intense out there.”

The Monarchs’ opportunities were limited from that point, and as the minutes ticked away it appeared as the Lions would come away with a 1-0 victory.

But with 90 seconds left, Mater Dei’s Lilly Slater controlled a high-bouncing ball by heading it toward the left side of the goal. Slater took her time and waited for the ball to settle, and then blasted it into right side of the goal to tie score, 1-1.

Neither goalkeeper was tested during the two 10-minute overtime periods.

Scoring the penalty kicks for the Lions were Julie Doyle, D’Aquila, Samantha Hobert, Rachel Bastone and Isabella Beltran.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” Mater Dei coach Matty West said of his team. “They have such incredible heart … such commitment towards each other and always believe they could pull it out.

“I also want to give credit to JSerra. They are a tremendous team … very talented.”

JSerra defeated the Monarchs in the teams’ first league meeting, 3-1, and they played to a scoreless draw in the regular-season finale.

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