Veteran Cathedral Catholic girls soccer Coach Dawn Lee is known for sticking to the good old-fashioned, unvarnished truth, whether the message is good or bad. She had little of the latter on her mind Thursday afternoon, despite the fact that her second-seeded squad suffered a painful, 3-2, loss to No. 3 Upland in the semi-finals of the CIF Southern California Regional tournament.
The loss ended the Dons’ season, which included its first-ever San Diego section Open Division title, at 23-3-3. Upland (28-1) will host fifth-seeded JSerra out of San Juan Capistrano in the regional championship battle Saturday.
“We always talk about being able to walk off the field with no regrets and we absolutely did that today,” said Lee. “I’m so proud of our girls, they fought until the end.
“We didn’t lose to a bad team. Upland is clearly one of the better teams we’ve faced and they made things tough on us.”
Host Cathedral Catholic had the lead on two separate occasions but Upland retaliated almost immediately both times. Just over 10 minutes into the contest, three juniors collaborated on the first goal. Delaney Diltz lofted a throw-in from the left sideline into the box. It was flicked to the far side by Sophia Aragon where Caylee Hornaday poked it in. Just two minutes and 10 seconds later, the Highlanders equalized and it was still 1-1 after the first 40 minutes.
Early in the second half, freshman Kate Dalton put the Dons back on top, ripping a volley from the top of the 18-yd. box. But Upland, a big, disciplined, well-organized side, again responded quickly, converting a set piece to make it 2-2. Overtime was starting to seem a likely prospect until Upland grabbed its first advantage with only 12 minutes remaining, scoring on a deflection emanating from a cluster in front of the net after a nice build up. Cathedral was not able to answer.
For Lee, it was a difficult defeat to swallow. “I think maybe the hardest thing about it is knowing that if we had won we would have been hosting the championship match Saturday,” she said. “I just wasn’t ready to be done with this group—it is such a cool team.
“There’s something different about them and I think that’s what got them this far. They’ve brought the culture back at Cathedral. They were really committed to high school soccer, bought in and the chemistry was always there. A lot of times that will take you a lot farther than simply having talent.”