Pasadena Poly girls' soccer tops Oaks Christian to advance to title match
Soccer: Panthers get a pair of second-half goals to post 3-1 semifinal home win.
Pasadena Poly's Sarah Mendenhall, left, joins in a celebrations with teammates after Katie Wardlaw scores a go-ahead, penalty-kick goal against Oaks Christian. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / February 26, 2013)
While it’s natural for her to be nervous before stepping in to take the shot, Wardlaw stood in line for perhaps the biggest attempt of her career with an appearance in a championship match at stake.
Wardlaw converted on the penalty shot a minute into the second half and Becca Hanel added an insurance goal to power host Pasadena Poly to a 3-1 CIF Southern Section Division III semifinal home win against second-seeded Oaks Christian on Tuesday.
Pasadena Poly (20-1-1) will meet fourth-seeded Bishop Amat, a winner in penalty kicks over No. 1 Yorba Linda, in the championship contest at a site and date to be determined.
“I was nervous because it’s a big-time situation,” Wardlaw said. “I had to keep my composure and hit the ball as hard as I could.
“It definitely got our momentum going [into the second half]. It motivated us that much more, changed the complexion of the game and we are happy to be going to the championship game.”
The victory might have come at a steep price for the Panthers, who won the Prep League championship and are 13-0-1 in their last 14 matches. Pasadena Poly, which won seven CIF championships between 1991-2003, saw standout Sarah Mendenhall suffer what appeared to be a right knee/leg injury with about 10 minutes left. Mendenhall, a reigning All-Area first-team pick who finished with a pair of assists Tuesday, got tangled up with an Oaks Christian defender and fell to the ground after dribbling toward the Oaks Christian goal. She remained on the field for a few minutes before being helped to the bench. She left the venue in a cart shortly after the match finished.
“It puts a little damper on the game,” Pasadena Poly Coach Pat Gray said. “She played a great game and she draws a lot of attention. We will have to see what happens.
“I felt like we were the ones who established a pace. In the second half, I thought we went at them a little bit more. It was important to come right out and set the tone for the second half. It’s very exciting right now to be able to get this far.”
Pasadena Poly and Oaks Christian (19-4-1) swapped first-half goals about two minutes apart.
The Panthers caught a break to take a 1-0 lead in the third minute. Mendenhall made a pass to Evan Gancedo, who beat Oaks Christian starting goalkeeper Sydney Socquet with a low shot. A few seconds before the goal, the linesman ruled that the Panthers were offside, but the head official overruled his colleague. An Oaks Christian defender thought the play was offside and didn’t defend against Gancedo.
Oaks Christian, which won a Division IV championship and a CIF Southern California Regional Division III crown last season, knotted it at 1 on a goal by Megan Demijohn.
The Panthers controlled the tempo immediately in the second half. Ryan Casey of Pasadena Poly got behind an Oaks Christian defender and was tripped inside the goal box.
The Panthers were rewarded with a penalty shot and Wardlaw fired a shot inside the right post to make it 2-1.
The Lions, who have won seven titles between 2002-12, pressed for the equalizer until Mendenhall made a nice cross pass to Hanel, who headed the ball past Socquet to clinch the victory.
“I’ve been practicing headers off of corner kicks,” Hanel said. “I’ve been getting it with my timing and getting behind defenders.
“Sarah made a beautiful cross and the biggest thing was to be relaxed. We knew we had to keep plugging away because that’s a great team.”
Pasadena Poly goalkeeper Mia Fernandez finished with six saves, including four in the first half.