Grace Chalmers of St. Margaret's hits the ball with her head during a girls soccer match against Crean Lutheran on Friday at Concordia University.
See more photos from this game in the OCVarsity Hot Shots slideshow.

St. Margaret's edges Crean Lutheran, sits atop Academy League


St. Margaret's turned in a strong overall performance that helped the Tartans gain the upper hand in the race for the Academy League title.

Tara Morris tallied the lone goal of the match in the first half, as the Tartans defeated Crean Lutheran, 1-0, Friday at Concordia University.

"I feel that we're getting better and stepping up our level of play every time we play," Morris said.

St. Margaret's (8-4-4, 4-0) entered the match ranked No. 2 in the latest CIF-SS Division 5 rankings. Crean Lutheran (12-6-1, 4-1) has now lost two in a row since winning a season-best six matches in a row.

The two teams will play again in the Academy League finale for both on Feb. 8 at St. Margaret's.


SLIDESHOW: OCVarsity Hot Shots 2: Friday's soccer, water polo


"I have to give credit to our girls because we knew that this was going to be a tough game and they played smart," Tartans coach Johnny Marmelstein said.

St. Margaret’s was able to control possession throughout much of the first half. They nearly took the lead in the 10th minute, but freshman Grace Chalmers hit a shot that rolled just wide of the near post.

Though the Tartans continually managed to work the ball from the middle to the attacking third, the Saints defense stiffened, as freshman Katie Haughton and sophomore Traci Tooker made key plays to clear scoring chances.

The Tartans, who outshot the Saints 4-1 in the first half, finally capitalized on their attacking pressure three minutes before halftime. Freshman Lizzie Barbaresi dribbled deep down the sideline and into the attacking third before sending a twisting cross pass into the middle of the box. Morris made a well-timed run into the box, met the ball with her head and sent it into the net.

"She (Barbaresi) took the ball down the line, and as she did, I saw open space and timed the run perfectly," Morris said. "I was able to put my body squarely to the goal and head the ball in."

The Saints best scoring chance of the match came in the 46th minute. Junior Maddie Beavers managed to get free down the middle of the box and had a chance to beat Tartans junior goalie Ellie Schwartz. But Schwartz stopped the ball just as the players appeared to make contact with each other to prevent the goal.
The Tartans were back on the attack later in the half, but Morgan produced three of her five total saves to keep it a one-goal deficit.
Barbaresi nearly added an insurance goal in the 76th minute, but a high line drive shot ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced away.
Senior Alexis Leon and McKenna Marmelstein made big defensive plays in the final moments to thwart the Saints’ final attacks.
Crean Lutheran head coach Dennis Guerra was encouraged by his team’s effort in the second half and hopes they can maintain that level of play as they continue in the Academy League.
“We had a few opportunities in the second half and I told the girls after the match to pick their heads up,” Guerra said. “We played with intensity and we just have to carry that over into the next game.”

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