Late goal keeps playoff hopes alive for Lady Highlanders
Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
On the brink of elimination, the La Habra Lady Highlanders kept playoff hopes intact with a last minute goal, defeating city rival Sonora 1-0, Tuesday afternoon at Sonora High.
The win pulls La Habra to within a half-game of Sonora for third place in the Freeway League with one game to go.
Tied through more than 75 minutes of game, La Habra forward Brooke Mays received a through ball with plenty of room to work. At the last moment, Mays put it in the net to give her team a 1-0 lead and the Lady Highlanders retained the city trophy.
“I just kept dribbling and then finally I got close enough and I was like you know I need to shoot it, so I just toed it in there, and I was like, ‘Oh thank God’.” Mays said.
Sonora (8-10-5, 4-4-1) knocked on the door, but Katelyn Phinney and the Highlanders’ defense hung tough before their offense awoke.
With minutes left in the game, Samantha Butler got the ball on a counterattack. With nobody around her, she sent a perfect through ball ahead to Mays, who sprinted past her defender, leaving her alone with the Sonora keeper before she put the finishing touches on the win.
La Habra (10-9-2, 4-5-0) came out aggressively after a scoreless half, but struggled to generate chances. Sonora capitalized on the aggressive attack by the Lady Highlanders, but struggled to find the net.
Sonora missed three shots high of the net between the 49th and 54th minute.
“We got lucky at some points, we definitely had a few things go our way,” said Matt Sanger, La Habra head coach. “Katie made some big saves to keep us in, then we get the goal to win.”
Unlike many games before, the Lady Highlanders’ work paid off.
“This is the first game that we’ve had to battle and we’ve come out on top,” Sanger said. “We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve battled and worked really hard, but we haven’t gotten the result, and so this is the first where we battled through the entire game.”
With just one more game until playoffs, the Lady Highlanders are sure to come out confidently.
“It’s a huge moral boost because when you put in that much work and you don’t get anything from it, today we actually put it the work and then we got the result,” Sanger said. “I think that this is going to be huge for us going forward.”
With this win, Sanger and his team can breathe a little easier. Going in to the game, the La Habra girls soccer team needed to wipe away some of the disappointments from before.
“There’s a lot of pressure on this game,” Sanger said. “This is a big game, for the cleat, the inter city championship … we’ve kept it the last two years … but we knew that whoever won this game moves on to CIF the other one has to hope for wild card.”
The Lady Highlanders wrap up Freeway League competition against Buena Park at home on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. A win at home, coupled with a Sonora loss to Sunny Hills, clinches a CIF playoff berth for the Lady Highlanders.
Despite the loss, Sonora still clings to the No. 3 spot in the Freeway League heading into Thursday’s finale.
The Lady Raiders’ path won’t be easy with a road game at first-place Sunny Hills. The Lady Raiders could earn their playoff berth with a win, a tie or a La Habra loss to Buena Park.