CERRITOS — The Esperanza girls' soccer team had been winning games it wasn't supposed to throughout this postseason.
The Aztecs beat second-seeded El Modena, 1-0, in the quarterfinals and beat third-seeded Ventura Buena, 4-3, on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
But all hope of a sweep of the top seeds came to an end Saturday afternoon, when Torrance Bishop Montgomery beat the Aztecs, 1-0, at Cerritos Gahr High School.
The top-seeded Knights were in the final for the first time since 1986, when current Coach Kit Schwartzman scored the game-winning goal to beat Arcadia, 1-0. The Aztecs reached the final for the first time since 1988, when they lost to Buena, 2-0.
Esperanza stayed with the Knights throughout most of the first half, but had several defensive lapses, which kept the Aztecs on defense for most of the final minutes of the half.
The Knights struck first, 10 minutes into the game. After a goal was waved off for an illegal throw-in, the Knights again had a chance with a throw-in from the left corner.
The same play worked to perfection this time, the ball glancing off the head of senior halfback Rachel Moseley past Esperanza goalkeeper Suzanne Benet and into the upper right part of the net. The goal was Moseley's 14th of the season.
Esperanza's best chance to score in the opening half came about five minutes later when freshman midfielder Michelle Schardin had a breakaway shot against Bishop Montgomery goalkeeper Celeste Adams. Schardin missed the left side of the net by less than a foot, preserving the shutout.
The Knights missed on several opportunities late in the half, settling for a one-goal halftime lead.
Esperanza turned the tables early in the second half, but couldn't convert on two opportunities in the first three minutes.
The Knights' leading scorer, Michelle Kallas, nearly added to her team-high 23 goals on a breakaway. Benet charged Kallas, forcing her to kick left, just missing the corner of the net.
Esperanza's final chances came in the final 10 minutes. The Aztecs, however, couldn't convert on three consecutive breakaways and a fourth chance was snubbed when Jenny Parkison's pass to a breaking Tammy Lyon ended up in the hands of Adams.
"On almost everyone of our breakaways, we had a freshman behind the ball," Esperanza Coach Phyllis Scarborough said. "Experience was the difference in the game."
The Aztecs were without junior fullback Amy Harris, who received a red card in the game against Buena.
"We were without one of our stoppers," Scarborough said. "I think they did as well a job as they could have out there. We were really hurting."