LA MIRADA — A perfect season nearly turned into a disaster for the Buena High girls' soccer team.
After their prolific offense boosted them to an early lead, the Bulldogs were struggling to survive in the waning moments.
It wasn't until goalkeeper Currie Hunt of Buena wrapped her hands around a header by Lindsey Veris of Mira Costa in the final seconds, and the referee blew his whistle for the last time, that the Bulldogs could start to celebrate.
Buena outlasted Mira Costa for a 2-1 victory Saturday night in the girls' Division II championship game at rain-soaked La Mirada High.
The Bulldogs completed a 32-0 season and captured their first title in 12 years . . . by the slimmest of margins.
"It was a little scary for us at the end," forward Natalie Sanderson said. "But our defense really buckled down."
It didn't appear they would need to early in the match.
The Bulldogs peppered goalkeeper Chelsea McCarthy of Mira Costa from the early moments of the game.
They finally scored in the 18th minute when Ashleigh Garmon fired a shot past McCarthy from point-blank range.
Buena scored again in the 29th minute when Sanderson broke ahead of the Mira Costa defense and easily beat McCarthy for the goal.
The Bulldogs had numerous other scoring opportunities, but had to settle for a 2-0 lead at the half.
The momentum started to swing in the second half and it was clearly in favor of the Mustangs (27-3-3) after Shannon Cross booted the ball through several Buena defenders for a goal in the 72nd minute.
The Mustangs had several other scoring opportunities before Hunt made her biggest save of the night in the final frantic moments.
Hunt said she didn't have a good view of the header by Veris.
"All I could see was their [yellow uniforms] and the ball, and my first instinct was to cover the ball," she said. "All I know is I didn't want to have to settle for being co-champions."
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Hunt saw just enough of the ball to keep it out of the net.
It was a little too exciting for Coach Trish Butterbaugh of Buena, who scored the game-winning goal for the Bulldogs when they won their last title in 1988.
"When the game was over, I felt all of the tenseness that I felt the last 40 minutes come out of me," she said.
It wasn't quite the ending the top-seeded Bulldogs had envisioned.
But they were not complaining with the final result.