PLAYOFF GAME-ROUND 1 RECAP | 5/3 VS SAN JUAN HILLS
Newport Harbor 9
San Juan Hills 7
Sailors post upset against San Juan Hills
Matt Szabo | Contact Reporter
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — A standout offensive play was provided when Newport Harbor girls’ lacrosse junior Sarah Farley reached to the heavens to snag sophomore Adena Rothbard’s pass, before beating a double-team and scoring the go-ahead goal.
“As far as a highlight reel, that one would be SportsCenter top 10, all day,” Newport Harbor Coach Matt Armstrong said.
A standout defensive play was provided four minutes later, when senior goalie Hannah Sanders reached up to stop a rocket shot off a free position from San Juan Hills leading scorer Journey Fischbeck and preserve that lead.
“The play of the game goes to Hannah for blocking Journey’s really good shot down there,” Newport Harbor senior defender and co-captain Jordan Rausch said with a big smile after the game. “It was so good.”
As for Newport Harbor senior midfielder and co-captain Rylie Siegfried, she provided the steady play and scoring touch that her team needed.
Siegfried scored a game-high five goals to help the Sailors notch the first playoff victory for anyone on the roster. No. 10-seeded Newport Harbor upset No. 7 San Juan Hills, 9-7, in the first round of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs on Tuesday night at San Juan Hills High.
Newport Harbor earned its first win playoff in six years and will play at No. 2-seeded St. Margaret’s, a 19-3 winner over Woodbridge, in the South Division quarterfinals on Thursday.
“What I said to them after the game was that I’ve been waiting for this victory for like three years,” Armstrong said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Siegfried helped make sure that the Sailors would make a return trip to San Juan Capistrano on Thursday. But in the end, it was her assist to the third team captain, junior Katie Hendrix, that helped ice the game with 1:41 remaining.
Hendrix had a pair of goals and Rothbard had a goal and two assists for the Sailors (11-6). Sanders made 10 big saves, five in each half. Two of them came off free position shots in the final seven minutes, as the Stallions (14-5) had an extended offensive possession down by just a goal.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, but I knew I had to step up,” Sanders said.
The individual defense by Sanders and Rausch, as well as good team defense, were key in limiting San Juan Hills. The Sailors held Fischbeck, who scored 90 goals in the regular season, scoreless.
“As Armstrong says, ‘Defense wins championships,'” Rausch said. “That definitely proved itself in this game. We had a play, because we know she does the little crease roll. We were planning for it the whole game and in practice [Monday], we practiced it a lot … It was very stressful on the defense side a lot of the time, but we played our game the best we could.”
Siegfried led Newport Harbor with three draws won and four ground balls, while Farley, Hendrix and Rothbard all had three ground balls. Lysie Kenney, Maxine Aiello, Heather Roberts and Jillian Rosten had one each. Caitlin Dwyer had an assist.
The Sailors took a 5-3 halftime lead and never trailed, but they also had to withstand a San Juan Hills rally in the second half.
A 6-3 Newport lead vanished after San Juan Hills got goals from Bridget Cain, Mandy Muhr and Elena Guillen. But then Rothbard found Siegfried cutting in front to give the Sailors back the lead, 7-6, with 12:20 to play.
“It was really consistent throughout the whole season, our second half was better than our first,” Siegfried said. “We didn’t give up. When they scored, we didn’t get down on ourselves … I guess I just told myself I had to step it up one more level.”
Cain’s third goal of the night tied the score again with 11:04 to play, before Farley scored with 9:15 left to give the visitors an 8-7 lead that would hold up.
Hendrix provided the insurance goal, shooting low to score in the final two minutes.
Newport Harbor will be the underdog against St. Margaret’s. But Armstrong believes his team will be ready. Tuesday’s victory was also the first playoff win for Armstrong, who is in his fifth year in charge of the Sailors.
“I’ve been saying all along that Nos. 2 through 12 could all beat each other,” he said. “I don’t like to play the common opponent game too much, but if you like to play that game, San Juan Hills lost to St. Margaret’s by one and we beat San Juan Hills by two … You know, we’re going to have our work cut out for us, but I have a lot of faith that our girls will step up and do what they need to do. I think tonight they proved to themselves that they can win the big game.”
The Sailors have indeed had close losses to teams like Beckman, Corona del Mar and Los Alamitos this season. But on Tuesday, they proved they could come up with a clutch victory to keep their season alive.
“It feels really good,” Rausch said. “We had three goals at the beginning of the season: to make it to the second round of playoffs, to beat CdM and to win [the outright] league [title]. We didn’t end up beating CdM, but it feels really good to get two out of three, considering we got zero out of three last year.”