No. 5 Los Alamitos moves closer to Sunset League title
LOS ALAMITOS- Battered, bloodied, and bruised, No. 5 Los Alamitos shook off injuries and a tough battle with Huntington Beach to control the fate of the Sunset League title heading into the regular season’s final day.
Alyssa Pepper and Raya Young each scored a goal, as the Griffins edged the Huntington Beach Oilers, 2-1, Tuesday at Laurel School in Los Alamitos.
“Winning the Sunset League title would be amazing because its’ something that I’ve never experienced since I’ve been here and have always been inspired to be a part of,” Young said.
Los Alamitos (12-3-7; 7-0-2) leads second place Edison by one point heading into the final day of the regular season. The Griffins can clinch their first league title since 2008-2009 with a victory at Newport Harbor on Thursday.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we were able to gut it out,” Griffins coach Steve Soler said. “We are resilient and just need to play our best game of the year on Thursday and try to win the title outright.”
Despite the loss, the Oilers (8-5-6; 3-3-3) clinched third place and the Sunset League’s final automatic playoff berth by virtue of Newport Harbor defeating Marina 2-0 on Tuesday.
The Griffins suffered the first of four injuries within the first 10 minutes of the match, as freshman Rachel Posner injured her right knee after getting tangled up on a 50/50 ball and did not return.
Despite early attacking pressure that helped set up two corner kick chances in the first 12 minutes, Huntington Beach was unable to capitalize.
Los Alamitos began to find some of its own attack near the midway point of the first half, as Young and fellow senior Hannah Goldsmith, along with juniors Sarah Sanger and Allie Emmons helped the Griffins possess into the attacking third.
Goldsmith was wide to the post on a shot in the 27th minute, while Emmons had a shot stopped by Oilers junior goalie Jane Potter one minute later.
Los Alamitos continued to attack and nearly scored again two minutes later, as Young produced a shot that ricocheted off the near post. A minute later, Potter once again saved a shot off the foot of Emmons.
The Griffins pressure finally yielded a goal in the closing minutes of the first half. On a possession in the attacking third, Goldsmith tapped a pass intended for Pepper in the box. Pepper touched the ball into an open space and managed to get off a shot that went past Potter and into the far post corner.
“Hannah (Goldsmith) ended up taking a touch to the left and I thought she was going to shoot it,” Pepper said. “I had a defender on me, and when I stepped away from her, she (Goldsmith) slipped the ball to me. I took a touch and placed it into the right corner.”
The Griffins saw Emmons go down early in the second half after she fell and banged her head into the ground. She was forced to sit for several moments before passing a concussion test and returning to the match.
The match was halted for several moments midway into the second half, after Griffin freshmen Siena Ruelas and Mauren Kennedy collided with each other trying to get to a loose ball. Kennedy suffered a laceration to her forehead and a bloody nose. Ruelas stayed down on the field for several moments after the collision before walking off the field with assistance. Both players did not return.
The Griffins increased their lead in the 70th minute, as Sanger crossed a pass from the sideline into the middle of the box. Young managed to gain control of the ball and get into position for a shot that she booted into the near post corner of the goal.
“The ball came to me, and at first, I wasn’t in a good position to shoot,” Young said. “I knew that I had to keep control of the ball and maintain my composure, and when I saw the open net, I shot for the corner.”
Huntington Beach answered by cutting the margin in half three minutes later. Senior Lana Bermel slotted a well-placed lead pass down the middle of the field to fellow senior Dottie Rhoten who was streaking down the middle of the field. Rhoten slipped a shot past Griffins junior goalie Savannah Sickler and into the back of the net
Though the Oilers maintained possession of the ball throughout the final moments of the match, key defensive plays by Emmons and junior defenders Meghan Randig and Kelly Peterson helped Los Alamitos hold off Huntington Beach’s final attack and secure the victory.
“We felt that we gave away the last 10 minutes before halftime and that how they got the lead,” Oilers coach Raul Ruiz said. “Our girls woke up in the second half and we need to see that same reaction, intensity, and belief in our match on Thursday.
“We tied Edison earlier at their place earlier and we know they are a dangerous team.”