TEMECULA — The ball was kicked high into the air and was floating near the goal. And for the first time all night, Temecula Valley goal tender Kat Spencer had two opposing players in her face.
"It was nerve-wracking," Spencer said. "I saw the ball coming, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they're coming at me,' and I didn't know where my defense was."
Outnumbered, Spencer jumped high and snatched the ball out of the sky with six minutes remaining to help preserve Temecula Valley's 1-0 victory over visiting Great Oak in a Southwestern League showdown Thursday night.
The Golden Bears (18-4-1, 8-1-1) captured their first league title since winning three straight from 2007-09. They also recorded their sixth shutout in 10 league games.
The loss snapped the Wolfpack's (13-5-3, 7-2-1) eight-game unbeaten streak dating back to January 10.
Becca Cartmill's header into the left side of the net early in the second half provided Temecula Valley with the margin of victory.
Spencer's key save had to be agonizing for Great Oak's Demi Tsambasis and Miranda Schulz. Both players were in great position to get a body part on the high-bouncing ball, but Spencer stepped in and grabbed it before they could get to it.
"I was waiting for the ball, and waiting for it," said Schultz, a sophomore midfielder. "Demi had the right timing, but the goalie is the goalie, and she can use her hands."
Spencer didn't have a moment to waste.
"I knew I had to get my whole body on the ball," she said. "It was the scariest thing in my life."
Cartmill's game-winner came four minutes into the second half.
Sophomore striker Nicole Robertson sent in a crossing pass from right to left, and the ball glanced off a Great Oak defender.
Cartmill, a junior striker, lunged and headed the ball past the outstretched arms of Wolfpack goalie Michelle Craft and into the left side of the net.
"The ball came toward me, and I flipped it as hard as I could," said Cartmill, who scored her 14th goal this year. "I was just trying to make contact and get any type of effort towards the goal.
"When I saw it touch the net, my heart started pounding, and I just ran to my teammates and started celebrating."
There was plenty of work to be done from there, and the Golden Bears did it, dominating the ball for long stretches of the second half.
"We played with a lot of energy, and the girls played with as much heart as they've played with all year," said Temecula Valley fifth-year coach Amber Young. "They left it all out there on the field."
Said Spencer, who had six saves: "Our defense was phenomenal. We were really good at keeping control of the ball, and really good at passing."
Sixteen days earlier, the Golden Bears suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season, losing 3-0 at Great Oak.
They took the title by going 4-0-1 in the last five games, and yielding only one goal during that stretch.
"It was a key moment in the season," said Young of the earlier defeat.
"The important thing was we knew we were still in control of our season."