LOMPOC — What may very well have been the greatest season in the history of San Marino High girls’ soccer came to a difficult end Tuesday afternoon.
The visiting Rio Hondo League champion Titans, on the verge of advancing to the program’s first-ever divisional championship match, were instead turned away by an even hungrier host in Lompoc Cabrillo, which rode a hat trick from senior striker Kelsey Sherry to a 3-1 victory.
The triumph vaults Los Padres League runner-up Cabrillo (16-7-4) into the uncharted waters of the team’s inaugural divisional championship after back-to-back years of being thwarted in the semifinals.
As for San Marino, the Titans capped a brilliant season that resulted in the program’s farthest postseason advancement and only third all-time league championship with a 16-4-3 record.
“We’ve come back so many times this season and I thought we had one more comeback in us,” Titans Coach Jaime Acuna said. “The problem is you can’t rely on coming back all the time and today we just came up short.”
San Marino trailed, 2-0, after a dominant first half of play from the Conquistadores when the Titans suddenly thrust themselves into the match via a 43rd-minute goal from junior striker Hayley Thompson.
The score was set up when a free kick from senior forward Alex Schuster from about 30 yards was batted down by Cabrillo goalie Kiki Miller (five saves).
However, the blocked ball bounced around the box and was rattled home by an opportunistic Thompson, who halved the Titans’ deficit to 2-1.
“We’ve always been a team that’s prided ourselves on our heart,” Thompson said. “We came back against South Pasadena in the final 15 minutes and against Valley Christian and I thought we were going to do it again.”
The key difference in previous Titans comebacks against either South Pasadena or Valley Christian in comparison to Cabrillo, was neither the Tigers or Crusaders had an answer.
Yet, the Conquistadores, or perhaps more accurately, Sherry, had a response.
The senior slipped behind the Titans’ defense in the 56th minute and banged home a 12-yard goal off an assist from Brianna Farley to put the home team up, 3-1, and seriously stunt the Titans’ comeback.
“She had a great game,” Cabrillo Coach Derrick Wong said. “How she’s grown as a player from her first year to now and how she’s able to make that type of impact is impressive.”
The stunning goal was only countered by two strong efforts from the Titans over the final 20 minutes of the game, first on a 10-yard lob shot from Mandy Hsu that just sailed high and then later on a Schuster shot on goal in the 61st minute stopped by Miller.
As for the first half, the Conquistadores took a 2-0 lead and could have certainly added more.
Sherry led the Conquistadores’ attack with two goals, both within the first 10 minutes.
Her first score came in the fourth minute when the forward banged home a 10-yard rebound goal far post with a defender draped all over her.
Sherry’s goal proved doubling damaging as Titans reserve keeper Sarah Blasher was injured on the save attempt and did not return until the second half.
San Marino, which was already without injured starting goalie Elizabeth Hannan for the last match and a half, was forced to resort to field player Brooke McCloskey in goal for the rest of the first half.
It took only six minutes for Sherry to welcome McCloskey when the senior received a through ball right at the 18, raced around a defender and peppered a goal square into the middle of the net.
“It hurts to lose like this, but it was a real honor to be a part of the squad and lead this squad this far,” said Schuster. “It was an amazing season.”