Laguna girls run out of gas in back-and-forth battle, fall 6-4

Laguna Blanca’s crazy girls soccer season came to a wild and crazy ending on Friday.

The Owls scored four goals, but it wasn’t enough as Oxford Academy forward Brianna Washa tallied four of her own and led the Patriots to a 6-4 win in a see-saw CIF Division 6 first-round playoff match at Laguna Blanca.

The loss ended a season that saw the Owls (9-6) lose their first five matches and then reel off nine straight wins en route to the Condor League title.

Oxford Academy, meanwhile, lost three of its last five Academy League matches and made the playoffs as an at-large team.

Washa helped the Cypress-based school regain its mojo on Friday.

Her quickness and speed made life difficult for the Owls defense. She assisted on teammate Erica Rios’ goal that tied the score at 4-4 in the 68th minute and scored the next two goals in the 70th and 79th minutes to put the game away. In the first half, she scored twice to rally her team from deficits.

Oxford Academy led 3-2 at halftime.

Laguna Blanca tightened its defense in the second half and took control of the match for the next 20 minutes.

“We moved Ari Rodriguez back into the center midfield and switched a couple of defenders who were getting a little bit lost (in the first half). It really made a difference,” said Laguna Blanca coach Kevin Shertzer.

The Owls scored early in the second half to get a boost of momentum. In the 43rd minute, McKenzie Scarborough hammered a shot from the left side that slammed off the cross bar and Morgan Raith headed in the rebound to knot the score at 3-3.

With the midfield maintaining possession and Fiona Jessup taking charge in the center of the defense, Laguna Blanca was in command. The Owls took a 4-3 lead in the 58th minute after a long free kick from Jessup. The ball deflected off players in the box and went right to Becca Braly, who cracked a shot into the back of the net.

“When we scored that fourth one, I thought that was it,” Shertzer said. “I was saying, ‘We just got to hold them, we just got to hold them.’ ”

Unfortunately for the Owls, they couldn’t hold off Washa and the Patriots for the remainder of the match. They came up big a couple of times: Jessup broke up a breakaway by Washa and goalkeeper Mitsi Gamble came off her line and tackled the ball away from the Oxford Academy star in a one-on-one confrontation. The next time, however, she broke through and fed Rios for the tying goal.

Washa followed her assist with a back-breaking 25-yard shot to put the Patriots ahead 5-4. She completed the scoring eight minutes later, jumping on a loose ball at the top of the box and putting it away before colliding with the goalkeeper.

“I think we really ran out of gas,” Shertzer said. “When they scored that fourth one, I didn’t think we had enough in the tank to go forward.”

Laguna Blanca started well, taking a 1-0 lead in the third minute. Tiana Bonn scored off a through pass from Scarborough.

Washa scored the equalizer for Oxford Academy in the seventh minute when the Owls couldn’t clear a ball out of the box.

The Scarborough-Bonn combination struck again in the 21st minute. Scarborough took the ball down the right side and crossed it to Bonn for the finish and a 2-1 lead.

Three minutes later, Washa took advantage of an unsettled Owls’ defense, splitting two defenders on a high-bouncing ball and beating an onrushing Gamble to tie the score at 2-2.

The Patriots (10-9) took their first lead five minutes before halftime on a penalty kick by Alex Moctezuma.

“This whole game was like a pendulum,” Shertzer said.