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KYUSUNG GONG, , KYUSUNG GONG, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mater Dei hoists the U.S. Lacrosse O.C. championship trophy after defeating Foothill at Trabuco Hills.

Mater Dei girls take O.C. crown away from Foothill

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

MISSION VIEJO – A year ago, the top-seeded Mater Dei girls lacrosse team lost in the semifinals of the playoffs.

The memory of that defeat pushed the Monarchs to work harder. So hard, in fact, they went undefeated during the regular season.

That unbeaten streak is still intact, as Mater Dei pulled off a dazzling comeback to beat defending champion Foothill, 6-5, on Wednesday in the Orange County championship game of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section playoffs at Trabuco Hills High.

The Monarchs (20-0) will play Oak Park for the Southern Section championship on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Valencia High. Oak Park won the Greater L.A. title on Wednesday.

Mackenzie Wallevand scored three goals, including the tying and winning markers as the top-seeded Monarchs rallied in the second half from a 5-1 deficit.

“We’ve pushed our way through it all season in going undefeated,” Wallevand said of coming back from last year’s playoff disappointment.

Brie Ratkevich’s second goal produced the four-goal lead for the third-seeded Knights (13-9) with 23 minutes remaining.

Mater Dei turned up the pressure defensively, double-teaming Foothill goalie Hannah Upshaw (9 saves) to speed up the game. The Monarchs got the turnovers they were searching for.

Emily Maahs started the comeback by converting a pass from Maddi Hooks. Wallevand scored her first goal with 10:59 left to make it 5-3.

“We were down,” Wallevand said. “We all knew it, but we knew that the game wasn’t over until that final buzzer.”

Mater Dei won six of the seven second-half draws. Wallevand’s last two goals came on the rush following face-off victories, the last with 5:19 remaining.

“Something that we weren’t afraid to do with the group that we have this year is to push fast-breaks,” Monarchs coach Cressita Bowman said.

Monarchs goalie Courtney Walburger recorded just one save, but it came at a huge moment. With just 20 seconds left, Emma Gaughran released a shot from the slot. Walburger came out to challenge, and she was able to fight it off.

Gaughran scored three goals for Foothill, which led 4-1 at halftime due in large part to outstanding possession play. The Knights’ first possession lasted eight minutes.

“It was about taking time off the clock, wearing them down, and finding the right shot,” Knights coach Kate Hick said. “We wanted to get them really tired so that we could take it to them. (We) executed a perfect half.”


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