Senior Brooklyn Merchant scored five goals, four of them in the second half Saturday, and junior goalie Aubrey Fixen made seven critical saves after the intermission, lifting No. 3 Palos Verdes to a 13-8 semifinal win over No. 2 Westlake at Culver City HS.
The Sea Kings (13-3) reached the LA Championship Tournament title game for the first time. They will meet Bay League rival Redondo Union for the championship Wednesday at Westlake Village HS (5 p.m.). The teams split their two league matchups this season.
In April, the Warriors (18-2) beat Palos Verdes 21-17. The Sea Kings have not lost since that game and are now winners of seven straight.
Saturday, the teams traded jabs in the first half and went into the break tied 6-6. Kelly Hoyt (3g, 3 draw controls), Abbie Merchant (3g), McKenzie Olsen (3g), Kristen Tomasevic (1g), and Brooklyn Merchant all scored in the first half.
“[Hoyt] is really a once in a generation type of player,” Sea Kings coach Justine Beirne said. “She’s got that talent; she’s got the lax IQ, the athleticism, and the stick, so I mean, it’s kind of a trifecta.”
Shelby Tilton (4g, 1a), Delaney Waggoner (2g) and Mia Trilling (1g, 1a) scored in the first half for the Warriors, and Rachel Blanton (11 saves) had six saves in the first 25 minutes.
The Sea Kings slowed the Warriors’ offense down in the second half, and that began with Harper Skeie in the circle notching six draw controls. Olsen and the rest of the offense took advantage, outscoring Westlake 7-2 in the last 25 minutes.
“Harper is an unbelievable player and draw taker, and we just couldn’t grab them,” Warriors coach Lyndsey Munoz said. “Possession is everything, and if you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.”
When the Warriors did get the ball, they still struggled to score thanks to the goalie play of Lily Vancans in the first half and Fixen in the second half.
“Lily is a great keeper,” Beirne said. “But we were doing enough of the footwork up top to make the lower-percentage shots (Saturday).”
While it was a tough way to end the season for Westlake, the program had a lot of notable and impressive accomplishments during the 2019 campaign — most notably reaching the LA Semifinals for the first time. With a junior-heavy roster, Westlake will be in the conversation again in 2020.
“I told our younger ones that I hope this is very motivating for them,” Munoz said. “They know that they’re capable of playing like this, and if they want to work harder and get better to make it to that final game next year, that’s absolutely within their power. Just like any loss, you take what you can and learn from it and get better, and that’s all I want for them.”