TUSTIN — The game came down to a Beckman penalty kick in the eighth minute of extra time, with a CdM defender in goal as the goalie had just been issued a yellow card.
The penalty kick went over the cage, and the whole CdM team rushed defender Brianna Westrup in celebration as the final whistle blew.
A strange ending to an intense game, but the Sea Kings definitely will take it.
Their hopes for a fourth straight outright Pacific Coast League title live another day after they outlasted Beckman, 2-1, at Tustin High on Tuesday night.
CdM (10-5-3, 6-2-1 in league) remained a point behind Northwood (5-0-4 in league). The Timberwolves topped University, 5-1, in another league game Tuesday.
The Sea Kings play at the Timberwolves in a huge league finale Thursday afternoon, needing a win to clinch the league title. If Northwood wins or the teams tie, the Timberwolves win the league outright.
CdM and Northwood played to a scoreless tie in the teams' first league meeting Jan. 23 at CdM.
"We just have to play our game and be physical, definitely, because they're definitely going to step it up in the strength area," CdM senior defender Molly Keasey said. "We just have to want it more. I really think that's what it's going to come down to. We have to play it like a CIF game and just want it more. I think we can definitely do it."
The Sea Kings found a way to get it done against Beckman (4-3-2 in league), although the Patriots nearly rallied to earn a tie. Sophomore forward Lauren Sabella converted a penalty kick in the 78th minute to bring the hosts within a goal.
Then the game kept going, far too long past 80 minutes for CdM Coach Bryan Middleton's liking. He kept instructing his players to dribble the ball to the corner of the field, but the final whistle still wasn't blown. Finally, in the eighth stoppage minute, Beckman earned another penalty kick after CdM committed a hand ball violation in its own box.
CdM senior keeper Kendall Mulvaney strongly argued with the referee, and was issued a yellow card. Westrup, who Middleton said only played goalie when she was a very young kid, stepped into the cage. But it all worked out for CdM in the end as the PK sailed just over the goal.
"The ball never lies," Middleton said, paraphrasing a popular pro basketball term. "It's the same thing in soccer … [The referee] definitely wanted to make it interesting at the end. I don't know how I would have slept tonight, even tying them."
After a scoreless first half, the Sea Kings took control in the second half behind the red-hot play of junior midfielder Shelby Brown. Her first attempt at a free kick from 23 yards out from the right sailed over the goal, but she got another chance as the referee hadn't blown his whistle yet. The second time, Brown buried it into the upper part of the net, giving CdM a 1-0 lead in the 58th minute.
Brown now has four goals in the Sea Kings' last five league games.
Senior forward Miranda Stiver then struck in the 70th minute. After freshman forward Hunter Santos crossed the ball from the right, Brown played it to Stiver, near the left edge of the box. Her shot back across the goal struck the right post and went in, and CdM had a 2-0 advantage.
Stiver was visibly discouraged at one point, after she couldn't control a ball near the CdM sideline early in the second half.
"Change the game, Miranda," Middleton called out to her. "It only takes one play."
And she did. The insurance goal ended up being big.
"The first half was just working through bugs," said the Oregon State-bound Stiver, who has missed time lately with a hamstring injury as well as the flu. "I wasn't feeling too good, but the team definitely did what they needed to do, and I eventually got my feet underneath me again."
Mulvaney made eight saves for CdM, which had senior forward Jayden Smith suffer a right leg injury late in the second half. Smith, who recently came back from a left ACL injury, had to be helped off the field. The severity of the injury was not immediately known.
"She's one of the biggest parts of our team," Stiver said. "We really hope she's OK."