Tigers Take Soccer Victory in Stride

South Pasadena High, playing with plenty of confidence, prepares to play Ventura Thursday in the semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regional Soccer Championships  

PHOTO: Henk Friezer | SouthPasadenan.com | South Pasadena High School Girls Soccer vs. Linda Esperanza Marquez High School 1st CIF State Playoff Game at Roosevelt Field SPHS

It almost seemed like just another victory for South Pasadena High’s girls’ soccer team, not showing a tremendous amount of emotion after knocking over Marquez 4-0 in first round action Tuesday afternoon of the CIF Southern California Regional Soccer Championships.

The Tigers have plenty of victories – 21 in all against only three losses and three ties – so after they dominated the Southern League champs, a team which finished its season with an impressive 21-3-3 mark, South Pas players slapped a few high fives and whooped it up briefly before quietly walking off the field to receive some well-deserved fanfare from a sizeable home crowd at Roosevelt Field.

“We’ve decided we’re a very chilled team,” explained junior Uma Hornish, who put the Tigers on the board in the first 30 seconds of the game with a goal. “We’re the type of team that celebrates differently. We’re competitive and love winning, but we have a more mellow celebration at the end. You don’t see us hooting and hollering.”

- Advertisement -

Tigers’ Coach Tory Lathrop says the tempered celebration comes from an expectation of winning. “They like the idea of being cool,” she said, noting that collectively her club carries an attitude of, “Let’s move on” after a victory. “You’d think they’d be going crazy, but they don’t. They bask in it a little, but they are humble.”

South Pasadena saves those celebratory moments for the victories that matter the most.

One of which occured last Friday night when the Tigers made a first half goal against Westminister hold up in a 1-0 victory to win the CIF Division 5 Girls’ Soccer Championship at Warren High School in Downey, setting up their next goal – an opportunity to win a SoCal title.

PHOTO: Jace Kessler | SouthPasadenan.com | SPHS beats Westminster for CIF Championship

Now that they’ve dispatched of Marquez in first round state playoff action, the Tigers will hit the road on Thursday to face a vaunted opponent in Ventura High, a 12-0 winner over West Adams in its first round SoCal Regional Soccer match.

A victory over Ventura in the 4 p.m. match will put South Pasadena into the finals on Saturday against the winner of the Paloma Valley versus Westminister match in the other semifinal, also played on Thursday.

One down, two to go, South Pasadena High coach Tory Lathrop likes the idea that her team needs just two more victories to win the CIF Southern California Regional Girls’ Soccer Championship. If the Tigers get that far, the season will end with the title match on Saturday. SoCal and champions of Northern California champions don’t meet to decide a statewide title winner.

South Pasadena is seeded third in the Southern California tourney behind No.1 Paloma Valley, and No. 2 Ventura. There’s a chance the Tigers could face Westminister (No. 5), their CIF finals opponent, again for the Southern California championship.

For now, however, the Tigers are looking ahead to Thursday’s match against a Ventura team that holds an 18-5 overall mark, including a 7-0-1 first place record in the Channel League.

South Pasadena, which seems to have its defensive game under control, was dialed in on offense against Marquez.  Following Hornish’s early goal, the Tigers were held in check until they exploded, scoring three goals in the second half.

With an assist by Corey Segal, Rainey Tilley headed in a shot from about 15 yards out with 29 minutes left in the game, giving South Pasadena a 2-0 cushion. “Corey put in a great cross, I kind of ran in for it, put my head on it and hoped it would go in,” explained Rainey about her shot that got past the Marquez goalie.

Like others on her team, Tilley is enjoying the fruits of the postseason, highlighted by a CIF crown. The Tigers are playing like nothing can go wrong, thankful that the good times will keep on rolling, yet with a purpose that their mission is still not yet complete.

“It’s more relaxed out there, like we’re playing to have fun,” Tilley said, describing South Pasadena’s play after Tuesday’s victory. “We’re trying to win, obviously, but we want to have fun, too.”

With eight minutes left in the game, Emily Dunn launched the ball from about 20 yards out and it came down just over the outstretched hands of the Marquez goalie as the Tigers took a convincing 3-0 lead.

“This is really great,” she said of South Pasadena’s ability to keep getting past teams in the postseason. “We’re working really hard and proud of what we’ve done. It feels great.”

With about five and a half minutes left in the game, Corey Segal booted in South Pasadena’s final goal from close range, the ball just slipping past the Gladiators’ goalkeeper.

“It’s really exciting,” said Segal, only a sophomore and enjoying being a part of the Tigers’ success this season. “I don’t think any of us expected to make it this far in CIF, let alone go to state, so it’s pretty cool. We’ve been taking it one game at a time. It’s pretty exciting.”

South Pasadena played another solid game on defense, recording its 20th shutout of the season as goalie Noemi Howland was forced to make only two first half saves against Marquez while Sophie Reynolds recorded three more after intermission.

The Tigers gave up only one goal in Rio Hondo League play and one in the postseason.

“I’m so proud of this group,” said Lathrop of her high-flying Tigers. “This is the fun part of the season. We’re going to run with it and do the best we can. Even though they may not show it, they’re excited about being here.”