There were no regrets or insincere smiles this year. This time, Mater Dei had something to show for its 80 minutes of hard work, and something to celebrate.
Goals by Juan Gutierrez and Matt Fennell and a solid game by goalkeeper Nate Pena gave the second-seeded Monarchs a 2-0 victory over La Puente Nogales Saturday in the Southern Section Division II title game at La Mirada High. Last year, the Monarchs played Edison to a scoreless tie.
"It's ours," said Mater Dei senior Rawlston Masaniai. "We don't have to share it with anybody."
Mater Dei might have played a more complete game in its 3-2 semifinal victory over Woodbridge on Tuesday. But the Monarchs did what they had to against unseeded Nogales (23-5-4), which started seven sophomores and was missing its best player, Carlos Lopez, who had knee surgery recently.
"It was ugly, wasn't it?" Mater Dei Coach Martin Stringer said. "But nobody will remember that years from now."
After Pena denied an early Nogales shot at point-blank range, Mater Dei (25-2-4) took control. Guerrero scored in the third minute when he settled a high-bouncing corner kick and put it past goalkeeper Manuel Valdivia from just inside the penalty box.
"We were a little nervous at the start," Guerrero said. "I think we needed a goal to settle us down and get us going."
Fennell made it 2-0 with his team-leading 14th goal in the 36th minute when he easily headed a deflected throw-in past Valdivia. Fennell put the ball in the net again in the second half, but his goal was nullified by an offside call.
The small but scrappy Nogales forwards spent the second half trying to penetrate Mater Dei's defense of Masaniai, Stephen Vellanweth and Pena. But the Nobles were able to muster only three shots on goal and none of them gave Pena any trouble.
"Their defense doesn't give you much," Nogales Coach John Rodriguez said. "I was impressed."
Pena recorded his 15th shutout, helping Mater Dei earn its fourth title in eight years under Stringer.
But Stringer admitted last year's title didn't feel nearly as good as this one.
"There was some unfinished business," he said.