In the semifinal featuring two schools located on Del Mar Heights Road (and separated by just two miles), the Torrey Pines Falcons drove up the street to visit the Cathedral Catholic Dons to decide who plays on Saturday for the San Diego Open Division crown.
Cathedral Catholic’s Cole Wolfson drew the game’s first foul on the first possession for the Dons, putting them up a man quickly. The opportunity wasn’t wasted – Ryan Fazio fired a laser from the wing, thanks to an assist from Jake Heil.
In the several scoreless minutes afterwards, the teams took turns with possessions and battled out ground balls. It was apparent to everyone in the stadium that this would be yet another classic matchup between the neighboring schools. While Torrey Pines won the possession battle, the Dons defense limited quality shot opportunities.
Liam Cavanaugh took advantage of his team’s stout first quarter defense, scoring the games’ next three goals and earning the first quarter hat-trick. Cavanaugh drove the left alley for a great shot and goal, followed with a quick goal off of a ground ball scrum and used a helper from Fazio for his third – all within three minutes. And just like that, the Falcons found themselves down 4-0 to the hosts.
Torrey Pines, however, picked things up in the second quarter. Spencer Small drilled in a goal just over a minute into the quarter, and teammate Jackson Leinhart followed up with another goal just 30 seconds later to make it 4-2 in favor of the Dons. Morrison Mirer answered right back for Cathedral Catholic with an unassisted tally at the 9:12 mark to push the lead back to three. Small got some offensive rhythm started for the Falcons with his second goal of the night shortly afterwards, cutting the deficit to two.
Beau Botkiss made a key play for the Falcons with 4:30 to play in the half, as he intercepted a Cathedral Catholic pass and delivered the package to his offense. In the ensuing possession, Leinhart let a low-to-high fireball loose after losing his marker in the alley to make it a one-goal game, 5-4.
The hosts had plenty to say about the previous sequence. Cavanaugh assisted Hunter Biskup on a goal at the 2:56 mark on a play during which all six offensive players touched the ball within seven seconds. Now that’s ball movement. 6-4 Dons. The Dons closed the half by capitalizing on the rebound from a great save from Falcon goalie Max McGuire, with Mirer tossing it into the cage before McGuire could reset himself. 7-4 Dons at the half.
At halftime, it was apparent that Torrey Pines had a lot of cleaning up to do. With many unforced turnovers and missed shots, the Falcons took a hard look in the mirror during the break – and came out hot.
Small seemed well rested, as he earned his hat trick from the right alley at the 10:56 mark to make it 7-5. The Falcons scrapped hard during ground balls and stepped up their team defense to limit shot opportunities for the Dons. Torrey Pines was not content with Cathedral Catholic owning the first half, and it showed. Over a seven minute stretch in the third quarter, neither team scored a goal.
The Falcons’ third quarter dominance in the turnover, ground ball and possession categories paid off, as Ara Suhadolnik scored a silky-smooth backhanded goal coming from behind the net at the 3:19 mark. McGuire iced the quarter on a point-blank save at the buzzer to make it a 2-0 quarter for the Falcons – a measurable statistic that would laver prove to be immeasurable in importance. 7-6 Dons.
In the fourth quarter, the real show began. Wolfson got on the board thanks to a helper from Noah Assaraf to make the score 8-6 at 8:10 to play. Just twenty seconds later, Leinhart took the ball to the rack straight off of a missed shot and dunked it for his hat-trick to make the score 8-7.
At the 5:27 mark, the Dons called a timeout about half a second before the referees threw a flag on the Falcons for a push. The timing of the events caused the penalty to be wiped out. Two minutes later, with the score still 8-7, Small assisted Henry Hollen for the game-tying goal. Looking back, this was a two-goal swing for the Dons.
With just :45 to play, Cathedral Catholic called a timeout. Strangely, the Dons held the ball for the duration of regulation without taking a shot. The game would go into overtime.
The extra period proved to be an utter nail-biter, with both teams gaining possession, calling their timeouts and having their plans fail due to unforced turnovers. With the timeouts used early, the boys were forced to play it out. Back and forth the ball went, with each team getting two solid possessions without any shots on goal.
The visiting Falcons, who were down 4-0 to start the game, got the ball for the last shot. With just fifteen seconds left to play, Marc Lefferdink put his head down and made a strong move to the goal from behind. Twisting through the Cathedral Catholic defense, he dove in front of the crease and sent the ball past the Dons keeper for the Falcons’ first lead of the night – and fittingly, the game-winning goal.
With resilience, drive, determination and skill, the eighth-seeded Torrey Pines Falcons are headed to the finals after two one-goal wins – one against the top seed in the opening round, and another on the road in overtime against the fifth seed. They will take on second-seeded Poway for the top spot in the county on Saturday at 7:30 PM.