Long Beach Poly’s girls’ soccer team had already had a magical postseason run, and the Jackrabbits were leading 1-0 at halftime, just 40 minutes away from earning a spot in the CIF State Division 2 championship on Saturday. But a wild second half got away from Poly on the road at Mira Costa, and they ended up falling, 4-2.
“When they responded and scored I think it got to us a little bit,” said Poly coach Anthony Perez. “But I don’t think the loss takes away from the year we had–it’s just frustrating to know we were so close.”
Poly had never won a state playoff game prior to Tuesday.
The Jackrabbits took the lead in the first half on a great cross from Kelsey Adams to Morgan King, who banged it home for the 1-0 lead. The Jackrabbits were on their heels defending for most of the first half, with keeper Kira Ybarra making four saves.
In the second half, the host Mustangs kept pressing, as Poly was forced into increasingly desperate situations. At one point a Costa attacker slipped past Ybarra, forcing Poly center back Allanah Cutler to stop a shot on goal with her head.
As the skilled Mustangs attack continued to put pressure on Poly, the dam eventually broke as Costa equalized in the 50th minute then took the lead in the 63rd. After a handball and a converted PK, Poly’s season was clearly coming to an end. The Jackrabbits did get one back late on a rainbow lob from freshman Olivia D’Anna, one of several talented Poly underclassmen who will be back next year to try to return the Jackrabbits to the deep end of the playoffs.
“Our goal this year was to put this program back on the rise,” said Perez, who took over a Poly program that was flagging. “Last year they were third in league and out of the first round of the playoffs, this year they were second in league with just one loss and made the semifinals of CIF and State. I think it was a big leap and I know our returning girls will be hungry.”