SAN MARINO — Goalkeeper Sarah Blasher has been asked to step up for the San Marino girls’ soccer team in the last two games of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs.
When the Titans’ starting keeper went down with an injury Tuesday in a second-round contest, Blasher came in and helped her team secure a victory.
However, Blasher was put on center stage Thursday in a quarterfinal match against Cerritos Valley Christian. Although the sophomore did give up an early goal in a defensive battle, she also came up with perhaps the biggest save of her life.
After the team’s remained tied, 1-1, through regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, the contest went to penalty kicks. Blasher came up with the one save that San Marino needed, stopping the fourth penalty kick attempt to lift the host Titans, 5-3.
“I was nervous all day,” Blasher said about her start in the cage. “But I just wanted to go out and do the best that I could,”
Neither team was able to gain an advantage after the first six penalty kicks, as things were knotted, 3-3. Then San Marino’s Jordyn Duncan stepped up and beat Village Christian (17-10-1) goalkeeper Haley Magana to put the Titans up, 4-3.
Next up for the Crusaders was Grace DeGroot. She tried to beat Blasher with a low shot to the left corner, but the Titans’ keeper guessed right, dove and knocked the ball away.
Hope Welder then made good on her attempt, sending the San Marino players into a victorious frenzy.
“I told her that she had one in her,” San Marino (15-3-3) Coach Jaime Acuna said about his keeper’s save. “She made that one that we asked for. Just to come in and do what she did is big time.”
With the win, San Marino advances to the semifinal round Tuesday and will travel to Los Padres League runner-up Lompoc Cabrillo (15-7-4). Acuna said to his knowledge this is the first time the girls’ program has advanced to the CIF semifinals.
But that didn’t happen without a Titans’ comeback.
In what developed into a physical, defensive battle, the Crusaders struck first with a long-distance goal in the 10th minute. Village Christian’s Natalie Devries launched a booming shot more than 50 yards away from the Titans’ goal.
Peering into the setting sun, Blasher came out to cut down the angle but misjudged the shot.
The offering sailed over the keeper’s head and bounced twice before it came to rest in the back of the net.
San Marino had its share of scoring chances throughout the next 20-plus minutes of the first, but it couldn’t convert.
That was until the Titans scored the equalizer in the 32nd minute. Hayley Thompson received a pass from Quinta Addis on the left side. Thompson dribbled in, made a move on defender Ashley Allen, who ended up falling, and rifled a shot for the goal.
The second half was a defensive battle, with San Marino getting more scoring chances. The Titans also dictated play in the two extra periods, but couldn’t break the deadlock.
With his team already making history with a trip to the semifinals, Acuna said he expects his squad to be pumped up for its next opponent.
“We’re not done, and that’s the message we’re going to send,” he said. “We want to keep going.”