Marayah Tomlinson and the St. Bernard’s seniors saved the best for last.
Boy did they ever.
Tomlinson completed her hat trick less than two minutes from time to lead the Crusaders back from a 2-1 second-half deficit in Saturday’s North Coast Section Division-III girls soccer championship against No. 1 seed Technology at Rancho Cotate High School.
The goal, which came after a delicate shot somehow found its way through a packed goalmouth, gave the Crusaders a 3-2 victory and their first NCS title in the sport since 2003.
“She really shined today,” head coach Phil Rouse said of Tomlinson. “She was the key. She really showed composure and had all the finishes.”
Tomlinson was one of several seniors to close out with a bang, as the Crusaders got the better of the same team that beat them for the championship a year ago, and in almost identical fashion with the winning goal coming in the final moments.
Tomlinson’s three goals included another stellar free kick from just outside the penalty area, a blistering strike from long range to tie the game at 2-2, and a delicate shot through the packed goalmouth.
Check out the winning goal here.
Model of composure
“She was the model of composure,” the head coach said. “She saw a line through the goalmouth, she saw the gap, and she scored.”
Tomlinson wasn’t the only senior to shine in her final game.
Mackenzie Finck capped an inspirational playoff run with another big performance in midfield, while Shelby Jordan in attack, Josie Peterson in defense, and Rachel Rodriquez in goal each also played big roles in the win.
Rodriquez had eight saves to cap a breakthrough campaign between the posts, while Peterson, who was playing varsity soccer for the first time this fall, “put it all out there as a senior and really did well,” according to her coach.
The versatile Jordan switched seamlessly from midfield to attack and has been a consistent for the team all year.
“It really was about the seniors today,” Rouse said.
Tomlinson gave the No. 2 seeded Crusaders the lead just a few minutes into the game after Alondra Amador was fouled right outside the penalty area, but they were unable to build on the early momentum.
“Unfortunately we sat back and let them into the game instead of going for their throat,” Rouse said.
Technology tied the game midway through the half and then took the lead right before halftime.
“We told the seniors at halftime, ‘this is it, you’ve got to out there and turn it around,’” Rouse said. “And they did.”
Tomlinson’s second goal came nine minutes into the second half to steal back the momentum and set things up for the dramatic finish.
In defense, sophomores Ema Brenes and Emma Wilson continued to impress and appear well equipped to take over the leadership roles on this team going forward, as does junior Ata Fonoti, who had a big postseason for the Crusaders in defense.
Rouse also paid tribute to his fellow coaches, Tamra James and Dan Johnson, who took over the program five years ago and have played a pivotal role in building this championship team.
“This has been a multi-year project,” Rouse said. “It wasn’t just about this year. It was about something Dan started five years ago when he began to change the team culture.”
The NCS championship is St. Bernard’s third in the sport all time, having also won in 1999 and 2003.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.