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SoCal Sweep at Girls HS Nationals

HS Girls

SoCal Sweep at Girls HS Nationals

South Bay wins DII in its first appearance at nationals. (Amy Wallace photo)

Fallbrook and South Bay played two very different styles in their respective national finals, but they were incredibly effective in producing big wins. The Warriors retained and stole a lot of possession to play their brand of wide-open, fast ball (read more), while the Spartans leaned on its powerful, skilled forwards to exhaust Catholic Memorial in the DII final. South Bay was rewarded with a 34-5 win in its first appearance at the Girls High School National Invitational Championship.

 

 

The opening series saw South Bay at its best and forecasted the means by which the team would run in five tries (the sixth being a penalty try). Big forwards rumbled through the channels, moving their feet and dragging defenders with them. Although diligent around the breakdown, the Crusaders could not stop South Bay at the gainline, and the SoCal runners-up did a good job of staying tight until the space opened up wide. During the opening series, the ball finally worked wide and Aliyah Moala cut back across the fast-sliding defense and dotted down the opener, 5-0.

It took another 20 minutes, but Catholic Memorial was rewarded for its diligence. The weather and certainly fatigue produced an error-ridden game with lots of stoppages, but the Crusaders never slacked in effort. Some penalties allowed a sustained campaign in South Bay’s end, and a dive-over try tied it up after 22 minutes.

But that would be the only points the #1 DII ranked team, which usually competes in DI, would score. That push-back saw South Bay surge in the waning moments of the half, and the team settled back into its tried-and-true strategy of forwards-oriented play. Corina Lemafa dotted down after some linebreaking work from the forwards, and South Bay took the 10-5 lead into the break.

The second half broke down a bit, in that three yellow cards - two to South Bay, one to Catholic Memorial - were awarded and errors prevailed. Catholic Memorial fullback Cara Eisert was an inspiration in the backfield, making try-saving tackle after try-saving tackle. But perhaps the most impressive defensive display came from South Bay, when two of its players were sent off within minutes of each other, and yet the Californians rallied to prevent a try. Instead, Mikayla Roberts and Eriana Pula dotted down, and the latter added a dropkick conversion – the first of two – to give their team a healthy lead. Another dive-over score from Mililani Leui and a penalty try produced the 34-5 win.

The two titles went to Southern California teams, but all of the West Coast teams exerted their collective dominance. Washington’s Kent, although bettered in the final, played a thrilling game against NorCal’s Pleasanton, which lost on overtime kicks in the quarterfinals. The Cavaliers went on to beat Virginia’s West End 17-0 in the semifinals and Ohio’s St. Joseph’s 19-10 for 5th place.

After falling to Fallbrook in the semifinals, NorCal champion Danville broke Wisconsin’s Divine Savior five-year streak of finishing in the top three, winning 22-0 for 3rd place Sunday. West Coast teams finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in DI, and won DII. The region was well represented and made a compelling case for hosting the 2016 invitational championship.