PASADENA — The Pasadena Poly girls' soccer team knew it was eventually going to give up a goal this postseason.
However, the Panthers also understood that they had enough talent on the offensive end to advance.
For the first time in eight matches and the first time in more than a month, the Panthers yielded a score, giving up a seventh-minute goal to Lakewood St. Joseph.
They weren't worried.
With players like Katie Wardlaw and Noel Askins, the Panthers didn't need to be too concerned.
Wardlaw and Askins each had two goals to lead Poly to a 6-3 victory against visiting St. Joseph on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
Poly (19-1-1) will host second-seeded Oaks Christian (20-3-1) in Tuesday's semifinals, the first time in Panthers Coach Pat Gray's nine-year tenure that his team reached the final four in the postseason.
“We come into the semifinals knowing we have a solid team,” Wardlaw said. “We have many strengths all over the field.”
For seven consecutive matches, Poly's strength was its defense. After surrendering a goal in a 6-1 win against Mayfield on Jan. 16, the Panthers outscored their next seven opponents by a combined 30-0 margin, including 5-0 and 3-0 wins in the first two rounds of the postseason.
The Panthers had a “wake-up call” early in Thursday's match when Jennifer Pillon of St. Joseph (13-2-2) scored.
“It was a wake-up call because we knew we had to play our best game,” Wardlaw said.
Askins tied the score in the 25th minute on a breakaway only to see St. Joseph retake the lead on Emilia Mariolis' goal in the 35th minute.
“It was a test,” Askins said. “These are the type of games when you see what your team is made of.”
Poly passed St. Joseph's test to win its ninth-straight match and remain unbeaten in its past 13 contests.
Wardlaw tied the score in the 40th minute after she knocked in a rebound inside the penalty box.
The Panthers were the aggressors in the second half and were simply faster, evidenced by Askins' go-ahead goal in the 51st minute.
Askins gathered the ball at midfield, went left, then right, causing a defender to fall over herself and then used her speed to outrun St. Joseph's defense.
Askins sprinted into the penalty box and fired a shot from the right side, beating the goalkeeper for the lead.
“After scoring the third goal, we were even more motivated to keep fighting,” Wardlaw said. “We came back and played to our advantages.”
Poly kept the pressure on St. Joseph.
A minute after Askins' goal, Evan Gancedo scored for Poly.
Five minutes later, Wardlaw added her second goal off an assist from Ryan Casey.
Sarah Mendenhall — who had two scores in Tuesday's win — capped the scoring in the 71st minute.
“We showed more in the second half what we're capable of doing,” Gray said.
Poly goalkeeper Mia Fernandez stifled St. Joseph with six second-half saves until allowing a score in the 78th minute.
By then, Poly was already thinking about the formidable challenge that awaits in the semifinals.
Said Askins: “Every game is going to get tougher and tougher.”