Just when it seemed last Thursday’s City Section Division I semifinal game was destined for penalty kicks, junior Brianne Maldonado headed a cross from teammate Isabella Briggs on a corner kick late in the first sudden death overtime period to give the Cleveland High girls soccer team a stunning 2-1 victory over Palisades at Stadium by the Sea
It was yet another gut-wrenching playoff defeat for the Dolphins, who lost in a shootout to Granada Hills in the finals last season, suffered a 1-0 quarterfinal loss at San Pedro the year before, lost 2-1 to El Camino Real in the finals in 2018 and lost to Granada Hills 2-1 in sudden death overtime in 2017, also at home.
The latest setback was all the more painful given Palisades had the momentum heading into extra time thanks to a tying breakaway goal by co-captain Dylan Tzung in the final minute of regulation.
The game was scoreless until the second minute of the second half, when Maldonado tallied unassisted from the top of the penalty area, putting the third-seeded Dolphins behind for the first time this postseason.
Only three point-blank saves by goalie Giorgia Sterza kept the seventh-seeded Cavaliers from widening their margin. Palisades pressed hard for the tying goal in the last 10 minutes, finally getting the equalizer when Tzung got free for an instant 10 yards from goal and lofted a bouncing ball over the goalkeeper’s head.
Palisades had several chances on set pieces in the first two overtimes, then the game moved to the golden goal phase.
Tzung had scored the only goal midway through the second half of Palisades’ 1-0 quarterfinal victory over sixth-seeded Birmingham.
Having previously eliminated Taft and Birmingham the Dolphins were attempting to knock off their third straight West Valley League foe in this year’s playoffs.
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