The result of the rematch in girls’ soccer between Monrovia and San Marino High had wide-ranging implications for which school would take the Rio Hondo League title as the season winds down. A win for the visiting Titans would avenge their only loss of the campaign and clear the road to the league crown.
Unfortunately, it was not in the cards for the Titans.
Despite a halftime lead for San Marino, the host Monrovia came back, scoring the winning goal on a penalty kick, and secured a 2-1 victory in Rio Hondo League play on Jan. 24.
“Obviously, it’s a tough result,” San Marino coach Jaime Acuna said. “We were excited about the game, so it’s unfortunate that a penalty had to be the difference, but we’ll learn from it and get better from it.”
San Marino led 1-0 after the first half and did not allow a goal from the run of play.
After the break, both Monrovia goals came as a direct result of spot kicks. The Wildcats scored from a free kick following a yellow-card foul committed by the Titans, before scoring the game-winning penalty kick from 12 yards out.
“The center back that San Marino has, she’s a tough player,” Monrovia coach Carlos Cuellar said of Titan senior Sasha Redshaw. “Getting around her was going to be the task, but fortunately, we got two goals off of free kicks — one penalty, one free kick — and that is all we needed.”
The Titans’ best chance to equalize came in stoppage time after Wildcat Megan Kringen tripped Titans sophomore Makayla Tokuchi in the center of the field just outside the penalty box.
Tokuchi, facing a four-person wall, took the kick, but her shot sailed wide of the goal.
“I think we all came in wanting to win because we were holding first [in league], but we played with everything we could,” Tokuchi said. “Even though we didn’t get the win, we all played with everything and that is all that matters.”
San Marino had taken the early lead off a goal by Tokuchi in the ninth minute. Soon after a throw in on the left side of the pitch, Tokuchi struck the ball out of the air with the outside of her foot, sending it across the goalmouth and into the back of the net.
“We were being aggressive and that is where the goal started,” Tokuchi said.
Monrovia’s equalizer came in the 65th minute after Titan defender Kaitlyn An was issued a yellow card for a relatively benign-seeming tackle along the left sideline approximately 36 yards away from goal.
Wildcat Audrey Mendoza took the kick, sending the ball arcing through the sky and coming down at a sharp angle behind the mass of players grouped together near the top of the box. The ball hit the turf in front of the last two Titans, Redshaw and goalkeeper Calista Tan, and rebounded back into the air. In almost slow motion, the ball floated over the head of Redshaw and then over the reach of Tan before dropping into the goal to make it 1-1.
It was a tense atmosphere at Monrovia High. Many Wildcats fans criticized the officiating crew throughout the contest, and eventually prompted a warning from the sideline referee. The jeering persisted, and the same official threatened to end the game with 12:27 left as school administrators tried to calm the crowd. The incident forced a near five-minute stoppage in the game before the fans were given “one last chance.”
Then, in the 79th minute, Redshaw and Monrovia junior Ava Chapman tussled for the ball in the center of the Titans penalty area.
The ball was just in front of the Titan goal at Chapman’s feet, and the junior was facing away from the goalmouth with Redshaw directly behind her. Eventually Redshaw broke the standoff by physically dislodging the Wildcat junior from her position. Chapman ended up on the ground, the Wildcats earned their penalty opportunity and a yellow card offense was issued to Redshaw.
Mendoza stepped up to the spot and blasted the shot past Tan to take the lead with just moments left in the match.
The loss dealt a major blow to the Titans’ quest for the league title, complicated even more when the Wildcats beat La Cañada 4-2 two days after beating San Marino for the second time this season. This means San Marino (3-2-1 in league for 10 points as of Jan. 29) trails league-leading Monrovia (5-1 in league for 15 points). The Titans close out the season with league matches against Temple City and La Cañada.
Results of those matches will be included in the next issue of the Tribune.
“We’re going to play these games and try to win every single one of them,” Acuna said. “It’s a tough league we play in. Hats off to Monrovia. They are a good team.”
First published in the Feb. 1 issue of the San Marino Tribune