Cardinal Newman closed the gap on Pinewood Prep on Saturday but still came up short in a 3-2 loss in the SCISA Class 3A state girls soccer championship match at USC's Stone Stadium.
Steve Bervins' team took a 2-1 lead against the top-ranked, defending champion Panthers on two goals by Chelsea Goodwin, the second of which broke a 1-1 tie with 25:08 remaining.
Pinewood Prep (20-6) responded by dominating the rest of the match. The Panthers got the equalizer on a goal by Kelsey Orvin at the 23:35 mark and went ahead when sophomore Courtney Angotti-Smith found a rare soft spot in the Cardinals' defense and whistled home the game-winning shot from 15 yards out with 3:25 remaining.
"It's no secret that Courtney is a great finisher," Bervins said. "We held her in check most of the time, but we had that one letdown, and she made us pay."
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It was the 54th goal of the season for Angotti-Smith, and her 156th in three varsity seasons.
"I was starting to get a little frustrated, but I knew I couldn't let it (defensive pressure) get into my head," Angotti-Smith said.
Said Pinewood coach Gail Orborne: "Courtney's used to the double and triple teams by now, but I could see her head go down a few times in frustration.
"But I just felt she would get her chance at some point and that she'd make it count."
Pinewood took a 1-0 lead 15 minutes in on another Cardinals defensive mistake. A clearing pass by a Cardinals defender deep in the zone found the back of the net for an own goal.
Undeterred, the Cardinals kept working and took the lead. Both Goodwin goals came after the senior striker ran down long passes from midfield.
The Cardinals, who finished with a 19-6-1 record, are 0-4 in SCISA championship matches since last claiming a title in 2003.
It was the second consecutive title triumph for the Panthers, who defeated the Cardinals 4-1 in last year's final.
"The girls came ready to play," Bervins said. "They weren't nervous and weren't intimidated. We gave it all we had, but it wasn't quite enough. Maybe we'll get back next year and have a different result."