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CIF soccer final

Costa girls run out of time, fall 2-1

by John Tawa

When talented teams play each other, one inevitably has to lose. That was Mira Costa's fate Saturday night, as the Mustangs fell to undefeated Buena 2-1 in the CIF Div. II girls soccer final at La Mirada High School.

The loss ended a storybook season for Costa, which finished the year 27-3-3, with the most wins in school history. But Costa was no Cinderella team, as some newspaper accounts indicated. This team deserved to be at the ball. Unfortunately, when the clock struck midnight, the ball was nestled in the Buena goalkeeper's arms.

The game was a classic, played in two halves that bore little relation to one another. Buena was dominant in the first 40 minutes. The Bulldogs scored twice despite steady rain and would have scored more but for the brilliant play of Costa keeper Chelsea McCarthy. She made three breathtaking saves on point-blank shots to keep Costa within striking distance. McCarthy also came out of her net on more than one occasion to squelch breakaway attempts or to cut off shot angles.

On the two goals, McCarthy had no chance. In the 19th minute, Buena used its great speed and ball control up front to take a 1-0 lead. Seconds after a brilliant save by McCarthy, a Bulldog forward beat a Costa defender with a left-side run. Her low crossing pass found the foot of striker Ashleigh Garmon who slammed her 24th goal of the season into the back of the net.

Nine minutes later, Buena scored again. Costa midfielder Ydun Donahoe, whose speed and ball handling made her a threat all night, slipped on the turf, breaking Buena midfielder J.J. Toohey free. Her pass found Natalie Sanderson on the right side, stride for stride with defender Diana Brunkhardt. When Brunkhardt slipped on the wet grass, Sanderson was all alone and buried the ball into the left corner of the goal.

Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Costa turned the game around in the second half. The Mustangs played with the skill they had displayed all season, putting relentless pressure on Buena goalie Currie Hunt.

"The second half represents what our team is, just fighting for it like life or death," senior Cosette Smith said.

Pressing the attack, Costa forced nine corner kicks. The Mustangs also had three free kicks in the scoring zone. This produced one quality scoring chance after another.

Jamie Grass, Sara Davis and Lindsey Veris all got heads on throw-ins or corner kicks in the half's first 15 minutes, but the Bulldog defense was equal to the task. Hunt tracked down a Shannon Cross missile in the 16th minute and Nicki David barely missed the upper left corner from 27 yards in the 28th minute after Hunt's clearing attempt went right to her.

Costa also had some bad luck. In the 23rd minute, Veris' header off a Smith corner glanced off the right post, but stayed out of the net.

Meanwhile, the Costa defense stepped up, keeping the ball away from McCarthy most of the half. Grass hustled back to foil a two-on-one chance, and both Brunkhardt and Tricia Hastings made nice tackles in the box. McCarthy's only save in the half was spectacular, as she came off her line in the sixth minute to get a finger on a shot from point blank range and steer it just wide of the goal.

Costa got the goal it worked so hard for in the 32nd minute. A corner kick was played short to Cross. She turned and sent a low skidder toward the goal that got through the tangle of legs in front and rolled untouched past the goalie. The improbable goal cut the margin to 2-1 and sent Costa's hopes soaring.

The Mustangs continued their siege until the game's closing seconds, looking for the equalizer. Their best chance came on the game's final play. Hastings lofted a free kick

toward the goal with three Mustangs in hot pursuit. Veris got a head on the ball, but the goalie anticipated well and was able to grab it just before it went in. The whistle blew and the game was over.

"That goalie in the last two seconds had the best save of her life," said Costa head coach Patty Perkinson.

After the game, tears flowed freely. There was sadness to be sure, but there were tears of joy for the effort the team displayed in the second half when their backs were against the wall, happy tears for an outstanding season, for getting to the CIF finals and coming within a whisker of tying it up.

"At the end of the game, I was so happy because everyone went out fighting and we played a great game," Hastings said.

"If there was more time, I definitely could have seen us scoring at least one more goal," Smith added. "In the second half, we played like we always do. I don't know why we waited."

"We ran out of time," Perkinson said. "That second half, if we played like that the first half, it would have been a different ballgame. The first half, we just panicked and played kick ball. That's not Costa soccer. Second half, we got our second wind and played our best game."

"Our road through the playoffs was a tough draw," Perkinson added. "I'm so proud of our girls. We had a great season." ER