Bishop Gorman has averaged 5.5 goals this season.
The Gaels have scored four or more goals in 19 of 27 games, and the storyline with the defending state champs generally surrounds their forwards and explosive offense.
But Friday night in the Class 4A girls state soccer semifinal against Palo Verde, it was stalwart defense late in the game that sent the Gaels into Saturday’s title game.
Goalie Kirsten Kircher made 12 saves and Camden Berry and Kennedy Enus led the defense as Gorman held off the Panthers’ late rally for a 3-2 win at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex.
The Gaels (26-0-1) will try to win their second consecutive state title at noon Saturday when they face Galena (21-0-2) at Bettye Wilson.
“We really are a family on the defense, we know each other and how we play, and I think the reason we’ve been able to hold down the fort so well is we trust each other,” Berry said. “They obviously have some talent over there, and they had a lot of chances, so it was bound for a few to go in. I don’t think we got comfortable with the lead, we may have made a few mistakes and they capitalized on them.
“We know we’re not gonna stop working until the whistle blows.”
The same could be said for the Panthers.
After Gianna Gourley, Jaden Terrana and Jacqueline Hillegas gave Gorman a 3-0 lead in the first half, the Panthers (14-6-3) rallied in the second half, keeping the pressure on Kircher and getting a majority of their shots in the final 29 minutes.
“The difference between high school soccer and club soccer is the passion,” Gaels coach Doug Borgel said. “It only takes one goal, and all these people out here cheering going crazy, it energizes a team … you can see momentum switch immediately.”
Palo Verde made the score 3-1 in the 51st minute when Kate Fann knocked a rebound in after Kircher stopped a shot. Two minutes later, Taylor Crouch blasted a shot just outside the box over Kircher’s outstretched arms.
The Gaels lost a player when Kevyn Hillegas received her second yellow card in the 56th minute. They were forced to play with nine field players. Hillegas’ foul resulted in Carlee Giammona’s free kick, which caromed off the crossbar.
“It was such a team effort, and everybody came back in the second half and really gave it their all,” Giammona said. “We almost did it. I’m still so proud of my team.”
Galena 3, Coronado 2 — The Grizzlies scored in the final minute of overtime to knock off the Cougars in the other semifinal at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex.
Lauren Muff scored in the 95th minute for Galena, collecting a pass from Isabella Flocchini on a hockey-style odd-man rush. Peyton Kosman scored Galena’s other two goals.
Coronado (20-2-3) got things started in the eighth minute when Haley Meusy dished to Leili Rosenberg, who booted it from 20 yards off the crossbar and into the goal. In the 30th minute, Simone Hottentot booted it right into the hands of Galena’s keeper, but it slipped through to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Galena tied the score in the 29th minute on Kosman’s shot from goal line, and she then drilled a free kick in the 68th minute from just outside the box.
Coronado outshot Galena 25-13, including a 14-8 advantage in shots on target.
“I’m proud of my girls. They gave everything they had,” Coronado coach Dana Neel said.