Los Angeles Soccer: Ifeoma Onumonu
DOWNEY -- The battle to determine the nation’s top girls’ soccer team lived up to its billing and, in the end, it was Aliso Niguel beating Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga, 3-2, Saturday afternoon in the Southern California Regionals Girls Division I championship at Justice Stadium on the campus of Warren High School.
Freshman Lauren Miller had the game-winner in the 66th minute, capping a furious rally that stunned the nation’s top-ranked squad, according to ESPNHS.
“I didn’t bat an eye,” Aliso Niguel co-head coach Randy Dodge said of his team’s three-goal flurry early in the second half. “Without a doubt now, we’re the national champions for the Winter season.”
Aliso Niguel (22-1-5), which avenged its only loss in the CIF-Southern Section final, initially struggled to build rhythm, getting flagged for offsides four times in the first 10 minutes. And despite falling behind 2-0, the Wolverines never really lost control of the match.
Lindsay Doyle cut the deficit in half in the 56th minute before netting the equalizer four minutes later.
“That first goal just got us back in it,” Doyle said.
Los Osos forward Ifeoma Onumonu reached the 30-goal plateau. She struck in the 24th minute thanks to a fortunate bounce, taking advantage of failed clearance. The ball deflected off teammate Sydney Johnson, and Oregon State-bound keeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme tried leaving the box but Onumonu wasted no time, depositing a bullet shot into the lower right corner from 20 yards out.
Onumonu scored again six minutes into the second half, cleaning up a giveaway inside the box. Los Osos (25-1-3) nearly made it 3-0 a few minutes later but Prudhomme was heroic with a diving save in a one-on-one situation.
Then the tide shifted.
“Our team has a tendency to come back,” Prudhomme said. “We created chances to win it. I think my save got us a little excited.”
A No. 1 national ranking might come with it.
Los Osos, from Rancho Cucamonga, came into the game at No. 2 in the ESPNHS Fab 50 national rankings, and the Grizzlies (23-0-3) figure to rise after its 1-0 triumph. No. 1 Westview, from San Diego, was beaten by Carlsbad's La Costa Canyon in the CIF San Diego Section's Division II title game.
No. 5 Aliso Niguel, from Aliso Viejo, also could vault to the front after beating No. 4 San Clemente -- the only team it had lost to this season -- in Friday night's Southern Section Division 1 final. Carroll, from Southlake, Texas, is No. 3 in ESPN's winter rankings.
Los Osos was officially the underdog, seeded second, behind Fullerton's Sunny Hills (30-1-0), but they took charge after halftime as forward Ifeoma Onumonu sent in the ball for Hasan to finish.
“I haven't stopped crying yet,” Los Osos coach Mychal Armstrong told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. “These girls are such a great group. They deserve this.”
In other Southern Section finals Saturday:
Claremont 2, Bishop Amat 0: Goalkeeper Amanda Garvin made three spectacular saves and the Wolfpack (27-1-4) extended their shutout streak to seven games while winning the girls Division 3 championship, played, like all of the Southern Section girls finals, at Mission Viejo. Defender Taylor Fortson nodded home a corner kick in the 28th minute and Merin Arft tallied at the start of the second half to send Claremont past defending champion Bishop Amat (22-5-4), from La Puente.
San Clemente High School makes its fifth successive CIF Southern Section Division I girls soccer title-game appearance this weekend, and the Tritons will have to go through a familiar foe if they're to win their sixth title in 11 years.
South Coast League rival Aliso Niguel (18-1-5) will look for its second victory this season over San Clemente (18-2-7) in Friday's championship match at Mission Viejo High School. The teams have played three times already, each winning once along with a scoreless draw.
San Clemente advanced with a 2-0 semifinal victory Tuesday over Dana Hills (16-6-1), from Dana Point. Danielle Mellem provided a sixth minute lead for the Tritons, who are unbeaten in 17 games since a 3-1 loss Dec. 19 to Aliso in Mater Dei's tournament. Jamae Cousineau added an insurance goal with three minutes to go.
Aliso Niguel, from Aliso Viejo, beat Santa Margarita Catholic (16-5-3), from Rancho Santa Margarita, on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the other Division 1 semifinal. Lindsay Doyle gave the Wolverines a 15th-minute lead, and Santa Margarita pulled even with nine minutes remaining on Kassidy Gorman's goal.
Aliso had lost five times on penalties in semifinals.
In other CIF Southern Section girls semifinals:
Sunny Hills 2, Great Oak 1: Maribell Morales and Megan Villaescusa netted first-half goals, and the top-seeded Lancers (30-1-0), from Fullerton, edged Great Oak (15-6-4), from Temecula, in a Division 2 game.
Los Osos 4, Upland 0: The second-seeded Grizzlies (21-0-3), from Rancho Cucamonga, received goals from Ifeoma Onumonu, Chloe Watson and Victoria Pina in an eight-minute span of the second half to pull away to a Division 2 triumph over Upland (13-7-3). Los Osos, ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps, won all three meetings this season.
Bishop Amat 4, Chino Hills 1: April Juarez and Nayeli Requejo scored two goals apiece and the fourth-seeded Lancers (22-4-4), from La Puente, romped to a Division 3 victory over Chino Hills (17-5-6). Juarez, the division's reigning Player of the Year, won a penalty kick Requejo converted, and her goals have her 25 this season and 117 in her prep career.