Just as Mission Viejo's share of the South Coast League girls' soccer title seemed to be slipping away in a morass of mud, a reserve sophomore put the Diablos back on solid ground.
Shannon Cunningham, a forward who missed the first half of the season because of shin splints, scored two goals in the final five minutes to give Mission Viejo a 2-2 tie with El Toro Thursday at Mission Viejo High School.
After Cunningham's second goal with about two minutes remaining, the Diablos celebrated by jumping on one another and rolling around in the mud. They were treating the tie like a victory for good reason--Mission Viejo (18-7-3, 8-0-2 in league) clinched a share of its first league championship since 1988.
El Toro (20-2-2, 7-0-2), the top-ranked team in the Southern Section Division 4-A, extended its unbeaten streak to 16 but must defeat San Clemente today to tie the fourth-ranked Diablos for the title.
The Chargers controlled play for much of the match and seemed to adjust better to the soggy conditions. They took a 2-0 lead at the half on goals by Kelly Thomson and Denise Kenyon.
The Diablos couldn't generate many good chances and at least one player had all but given up hope.
"Actually, I was about to cry when there was about 10 minutes left," Cunningham said. "I was getting down."
But with five minutes left, El Toro goalkeeper Traci Jensen knocked away a shot and Cunningham headed the rebound into the left corner of the net. Three minutes later, Cunningham broke free behind the defense and scored.
In the Angelus League:
Mater Dei 10, Bishop Amat 0--Katie Ward scored three goals and Becky Thomas made three saves in recording her 14th shutout as the host Monarchs improved to 19-2-2, 7-1-1.
Santa Margarita 2, St. Joseph 1--Jamie Braun scored the winning goal with a minute remaining off a rebound of a shot by Erica De Vitis for Santa Margarita (9-9-3, 4-4-1). De Vitis had tied the score with 10 minutes remaining.
In the Century League:
El Modena 0, Foothill 0--El Modena had two shots hit the crossbar in the final minutes, but the Vanguards (6-5-6, 4-0-5) had to settle for the tie, which extended their unbeaten streak to 11. El Modena, which is now tied for second with Villa Park, can win a share of its first league title by defeating first-place Canyon at 10 a.m. today at Orange High School.
Villa Park 1, Orange 0--Senior center forward Jenny Munson scored in the first half for the Spartans (9-6-6, 5-2-3).
In the Empire League:
Los Alamitos 0, Loara 0--Ann Turnitza had 11 saves for Loara, and Heather Thomas had five for Los Alamitos (12-5-5, 7-1-2).
Esperanza 4, Katella 0--Heather Koch, Kerry Murray, Janet Gamblin and Megan Murray scored for Esperanza (13-6-4, 8-1-1).
In the Freeway League:
Fullerton 0, Sunny Hills 0--Fullerton's Nicole Wangler had five saves, and Danielle Broschak had eight for host Sunny Hills.
Troy 11, Buena Park 0--Pam Prine scored twice, and nine teammates each added a goal for the Warriors (10-6-3, 6-3-1).
In the Garden Grove League:
Pacifica 5, Bolsa Grande 0--Valerie Downen scored twice for the Mariners (7-4-7, 7-2-1).
In the Orange League:
Valencia 1, Brea-Olinda 1--Judy Hlavac scored off a corner kick with less than five minutes left, giving visiting Valencia (7-6-7, 5-1-4) the tie.
Western 2, Anaheim 1--Brenda Gravell and Sonia Beckstead scored to give Western (7-1-2 in league) its first league championship.
In the Sea View League:
Newport Harbor 5, Tustin 0--Stacey Gerry scored twice, and Lisa Bernhard had 16 saves as Newport Harbor improved to 8-5-4, 5-2-3.
In the Sunset League:
Edison 4, Westminster 0--Janelle Martin, Christine Tyler, Jill Kresenzky and Kassie Price scored for Edison (16-4-6, 8-0-2).
Marina 1, Ocean View 0--Sara Heilman scored for the Vikings (16-3, 7-3).