By Sue Pascoe
It was 45 degrees at game time for the girls City Section soccer finals at Valley College last Saturday. Both teams had scored overtime victories in the semifinals, but El Camino Real had earned 13 city titles over the years, while Palisades High School had never won a championship.
The two teams had fought to a 0-0 tie in January, but there was now a key difference: one of Pali’s key defenders, junior Frankie Van Norden, had received two yellow cards in the semifinal game and was required to sit out the championship game.
El Camino scored in the 15th minute, when Audrey Cabrera outran her defender and placed the ball in the top of the net over goalie Rachel Phillips’ head.
Palisades had a beautiful goal in the 23rd minute when Jordan Darrow’s kick from the left side rebounded off a bar and Bailey Ball converted to tie the game 1-1.
In the 33rd minute, El Camino scored on a corner kick. The ball landed just in front of the goal and, in the scrum, it was kicked into the net, and that proved to be the winning goal. Neither team scored in the second half.
After the 2-1 loss, Pali Head Coach Christian Chambers said, “There was a little bit of nerves tonight. This was the first time these girls have been in a final. [The last time the Dolphins reached the finals was 2013.] We were missing Frankie.”
Chambers told the team, “Next year when we come back, we’re going to take home the other plaque [first place].”
The Dolphins played Sunny Hill on Tuesday in the the CIF regional playoffs.
Semifinals: Palisades 5, South East 4
The semifinal lived up to the term “nail biter”—and everyone knew it was going to be a battle at the Stadium by the Sea on February 27.
South East, seeded 10th, upset Cleveland 2-0 and then shocked No. 2 seed Sotomayer 4-1 to reach the semis against third-seeded Palisades.
It took 80 minutes of regulation time and 20 minutes of overtime to decide a winner, which was determined midway through the second 10-minute overtime, when senior Jordan Darrow scored from about 10 yards out with 4:30 left.
Oh—and the goal happened when the Dolphins were down a player after Frankie Van Norden, who has seven goals this season, received a second yellow card five minutes into the first overtime. (A second yellow card becomes an automatic red, the player is out, and the team must play with 10 players.)
South East scored the game’s first goal in the 21st minute from about 30 yards out, when Ashlynn Gonzalez kicked a ball that hit the high corner of the net.
The Dolphins tied the score in the 28th minute, when junior Bailey Ball scored on an assist from Darrow.
Just two minutes later, South East put the ball near the goal and when it rebounded off Pali’s senior goalie, Rachel Phillips, Jessica Rivera capitalized to make the score 2-1.
Ten minutes into the second half, Van Norden took a kick from near the 20 and put it inside the corner under the upper bar. The Dolphins went ahead in the 53rd minute when senior Meghan Jones sent the ball to Darrow, who scored.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, South East’s Ana Gutierrez scored with a strong 30-yard kick that tied the score 3-3, and sent the game into overtime.
The Jaguars scored in the second minute, and Van Norden received her second yellow card three minutes later, forcing the Dolphins to play short-handed the remaining 15 minutes.
Still, Pali tied the score minutes later, 4-4, when Georgia Calvert scored after a cross from Darrow. And then Darrow kicked her dramatic game-winner.
Goalie Rachel Phillips also played a key role by making seven saves.
“This means everything to me,” Darrow said afterwards. “I’ve never played in a finals for Pali. We haven’t been to finals in five years. “I’m so excited. This is my favorite team ever. I hoped we were going to do it and we did.”
Van Norden, a key player for the Dolphins, was joyful about the victory (“This game meant so much,” she said), but understandably anxious as she waited to hear if the two yellows would keep her out of the finals.
Coach Chambers, who has a good passing team, was asked about South East, which tended to kick “field goals.”
“We struggled with it,” he said. “They [Jaguars] booted it in. It’s tough to play against that, but the girls adjusted to it in the second half.”
He was also proud of the way his team responded when Van Norden was ousted. “With 10 players they had to play with just a little more inspiration and determination,” he said.
Quarterfinals: Pali 1, Chatsworth 0
PaliHi girls often have trouble with Valley rivals in City Section playoff action, and they now had to play longtime rival Chatsworth in the quarterfinals.
The ball barely left Chatsworth’s side of the field as the Dolphins made shot after shot on goal, until finally they scored in the 67th minute, when a kick by Jordan Darrow bounced off the bar towards Sadie Holt, whose back was to the goal. She took a back swing with her leg and sent the ball backwards towards the goal. The surprise shot caught everyone by surprise as it rolled into the net.
Pali goaltender Rachel Phillips was credited with two saves.
According to Chambers, the Dolphins hadn’t beaten Chatsworth since 2013. “We dominated possession today,” he said. “Anytime the game is played on the opponents’ defensive half, it’s a good game.”