Sports

Lady Highlanders come from behind to earn playoff berth over Sonora

La Habra's Brooke Mays dribbles near midfield against Sonora's Amalia Serna during the second half of La Habra's 3-1 win, Friday afternoon at La Habra High.
La Habra’s Brooke Mays dribbles near midfield against Sonora’s Amalia Serna during the second half of La Habra’s 3-1 win, Friday afternoon at La Habra High.

Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

With playoffs on the line, it was a physical battle between the La Habra Lady Highlanders and the Sonora Lady Raiders. Sonora struck first, but Brooke Mays’ countered with three unanswered goals to catapult her team into the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.

After a competitive first half for both teams, La Habra came out flat and Sonora capitalized, scoring the first goal on a breakaway in the 44th minute by freshman forward Monica Zaring.

“We woke up after they scored on us,” said Matt Sanger, La Habra head coach. “The girls knew they had a job to do.”

Sure enough, Sanger watched his team respond led by forward Mays who helped ease the nerves for La Habra.

In the 55th minute, Mays scored the equalizer when she smashed the ball into the back left corner of the net, but she was just getting started.

“I knew that we were going to come back and win this, I told the girls, ‘we are still in this game,’” Mays said. Four minutes later she scored again on a nearly identical shot but from the opposite end.

“When we got down, it was kind of like a fire was inside of me, I was like, ‘We are not losing this game,’” Mays said. “Then I got another one, and I was like, ‘might as well get a hat trick.’”

Mays completed the feat off a rebound from her own shot in the 74th minute.

The Lady Highlanders benefitted from a confident back line, led by goalkeeper Katelyn Phinney. Though she gave up the first goal she was able to remain composed.

“I was so nervous,” Phinney said about going down 1-0, “We [had] to step it up, it’s serious now, I don’t think we were taking it as serious in the first half.”

Phinney protected the team’s two-goal lead when she punched a penalty kick away from danger.

“I think stopping a goal is the biggest way to get them riled up,” Phinney said.

Coming off two games earlier in the week, including a game against leading Sunny Hills, the Lady Raiders looked to out-muscle their foe but eventually wore down.

Head coach Alex Bengard made no excuses for his team.

“[We needed to] fight harder,” he said about his team’s effort.

With the loss, the Lady Raiders (9-12-4, 5-6-0) need to hope for a wild card spot in order to advance to the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.

The Lady Highlanders (12-9-2, 6-5-0) await their next opponent, but now have momentum moving forward.

“I was definitely mentally preparing myself for this game,” Mays said. “I was really nervous. I was thinking about it all night, and this is probably the best game we have had this season.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.