By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Coach Christian Chambers must be wondering what it’ll take for his team to win its first City Section upper division girls soccer title. Eighty minutes wasn’t enough to determine a champion in last Saturday night’s Division I final at Valley College. Neither was 20 more minutes of overtime and an additional 10 minutes of golden goal “sudden death” play.
As was the case against San Pedro in the semifinals, Palisades found itself in a shootout against Granada Hills and it came down to one kick. Crystal Earl made it, lifting the top-seeded Highlanders to their second straight crown and dealing Palisades another gut-wrenching defeat in the finals.
“We were so close against ECR and this one’s even tougher,” said Chambers, referring to Palisades’ 2-1 loss to El Camino Real in the final on the same field two years ago. “We knew we could win if we played our game, it’s just frustrating to lose on PKs.”
Izzy Gill scored off of a pass from Sierra Cross in the 23rd minute to put the second-seeded Dolphins (17-2) ahead and they led 1-0 at halftime.
Granada Hills (17-0-4) came out strong in the second half and finally equalized in the 59th minute when Tatiana Coleman banged in the rebound off a shot by Cordelia Cross.
Freshman goalkeeper Giorgia Sterza gave a valiant effort with several saves near the end of regulation and throughout overtime to keep her team’s hopes of an upset alive.
“It’s a shame we couldn’t get the second goal but Giorgia was fantastic,” Chambers said. “She kept us in it. Granada Hills is a good team, but we had the right gameplan. The younger girls can definitely learn from this.”
Starting off the shootout was Ava Kerkorian, who stepped in to play goalie, made two saves and converted her peanlty kick in the Dolphins’ 3-1 shootout triumph over San Pedro four days earlier. This time, her kick was blocked.
As their teammates watched nervously from midfield, Dylan Tzung, Caroline Bremner, Lily Gruber and Ashley Sloane scored to keep Palisades close, but Earl’s shot in the final round rippled the corner of the net, giving Granada Hills a 5-4 victory and the title.
It marked the schools’ second finals meeting and both were decided on penalty kicks. In 2014, the game ended in a 0-0 tie but the Highlanders won the shootout 3-1 at Contreras High. Chambers took over as coach the next year and has piloted the program to six Western League titles and two Division I finals, but the ultimate goal has yet to be achieved.
“We’ll keep trying,” he said. “We were lucky this year to avoid any major injuries at the end.”
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