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Wait Over for Santa Margarita


CERRITOS — An inspired effort gave way to emotion Saturday, after Santa Margarita defeated Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, 3-2, in the Southern Section Division II girls' soccer final at Cerritos Gahr High.

The Eagles, playing their trademark brand of tactical soccer, looked as if they could never lose. But after the victory, the bottled-up pain of previous disappointments and years of effort was suddenly uncorked.

"We've just wanted this from the very beginning of the season," a tearful senior Maresa Zanetti said. "We've known that in our hearts, we wanted it more than anything."

It was the Eagles' first appearance in a Southern Section final, even though they have had one of the most talented teams in the county for the past several years. In 1995, Santa Margarita lost in the semifinals and last season it was upset in the quarterfinals.

Although Santa Margarita is led by its 12 seniors, freshman Casey Hamel made the difference in the final.

Hamel assisted on two goals and scored another for the top-seeded Eagles, who finished 19-1-3 overall.

"I never expected to start on a team this great. I'm just really proud of the team and myself for getting up here," Hamel said.

With the score tied, 1-1, at halftime, Hamel scored on a penalty kick in the 46th minute to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.

Mira Costa (26-3-2) scored about 12 minutes later to tie it, 2-2, on a free kick by Marla Landa from about 40 yards.

"We were trapping on that play and we got caught," Santa Margarita Coach Chuck Morales said. "[Landa] can kick it a mile."

But Hamel struck again on a corner kick in the 60th minute. She sent the ball across the goal to the far post, where Cal-bound Zanetti tapped it into the net.

"We work on these for hours," Morales said.

In the final 10 minutes, Santa Margarita goalkeeper Riki-Ann Serrins proved why she is heading to Maryland, saving a flurry of shots.

"It's nice. It's a nice way to go out. We've been waiting for this for four years," she said.

Serrins finished the game with six saves.

"You need to have a real stud keeper in the back and she did not wilt," Morales said.

Serrins saw more activity than normally because Mira Costa kept banging the ball up field.

"We just needed to control the ball, settle it down and stop the boom-ball game," Zanetti said.

Santa Margarita took the lead two minutes into the game after Hamel sent a perfect, one-touch cross to the far post and Kristen Rowe scored.

Mira Costa tied it in the 18th minute on a goal by Charlotte Gulzian.

For Morales, the victory did not come too soon.

"It was just a nervous, nervous, nervous day," Morales said. "Right now, it hasn't sunk in yet."

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