LOS ANGELES — The idea that sporting events can turn over a matter of inches is as cliche as it comes in the world of sports.
But for the Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer team on Monday, a matter of inches may have cost them in a 2-1 Mission League loss against rival and CIF Southern Section Division I second-ranked Harvard-Westlake at Occidental College.
Trailing by a goal in the 47th minute, Tologs goalkeeper Dani Garcia appeared to make a clean save on a shot from the Wolverines’ Paige Howard, but the ball rebounded off Garcia and, in the eyes of the line judge, just over the end line as Garcia laid out in an attempt to stop the goal.
“It didn’t go in,” Garcia said of the goal, which gave Harvard-Westlake a 2-0 lead. “I stopped it. I don’t think the ref saw, but it didn’t cross the line. I think whenever I have a goal scored on me I get down a little and I try to pull it up and that happens to the team, too.”
And that happened on Monday night, as the 2-0 lead allowed Harvard-Westlake (9-1-1, 2-0 Mission League) to pull back on the reins and control a long stretch of the second half as Sacred Heart (6-4-1, 0-2) tried to recover from the blow.
“It gave us some breathing room and let us relax,” said Harvard-Westlake Coach Richard Simms of the goal. “There was a little bit of a lull and it deflated them a little bit.”
Sacred Jeart wasn’t quite down and out, though.
Still trailing 2-0 in the matches’ closing minutes, midfielder Sophia Saldivar moved the ball toward the top of the 18-yard box and ripped a shot that was deflected by the Harvard-Westlake backline.
Saldivar stayed with the play, handling the rebound, moving right and ripping a shot to the top-right corner to pull the Tologs within 2-1 with eight minutes to play.
“I saw the open space and took the shot and was surprised that worked,” Saldivar joked. “It is a little deflating [being down 2-0], but you don’t sulk. You just keep playing.”
The Tologs came out of the gates with a defensive mindset, looking to hold a potent Harvard-Westlake attack in check.
But the Wolverines broke through on a 30-yard shot from Courtney O’Brien, who, with her back to the net, spun to her left and sent the ball flying with 23 minutes left in the half to give Harvard-Westlake a 1-0 lead.
The match was the first of the season between defending Mission League champion Harvard-Westlake and Flintridge Sacred Heart, which was the runner-up last year.
The teams split their contests in 2012-13.
And though Sacred Heart isn’t enjoying quite the same success it did during its 15-3-3 2012-13 campaign, Monday’s game didn’t lack the intensity the two rivals have come to expect.
“It’s definitely very intense no matter what sport,” Garcia said. “We’ll always be rivals.”