Deadlocked at zero, the semifinal match between Torrey Pines and Hilltop turned in the 54th minute.
A Falcons defender clipped the heels of Jesus Ponce as the junior forward scissored and spun away, sending him tumbling to the turf inside the box.
Sandwiched between the posts, Falcons keeper Jack Sampiere dived right. Lancers midfielder Russ Lopez kicked the soccer ball left.
Hilltop one, Torrey Pines nil.
“When you’re at home and you don’t put away your chances early, but the other team converts their chances, there is always the risk of everything falling apart from there,” Sampiere said.
That blunder would be the Falcons’ catalyst.
In the ensuing 15 minutes, No. 5 Torrey Pines netted three consecutive goals to upend No. 8 Hilltop 3-1 at home and clinch a berth against Carlsbad in the San Diego Section Open Division final at Mesa College on Friday.
“Really proud of the guys stepping up,” Sampiere said.
On both ends.
Senior Brandon Liu headed a cross past Hilltop’s keeper seconds after the Falcons (12-7-7) conceded the penalty. Minutes later, senior Jack Heilbrunn connected on a through-ball on the right wing and drilled it to the far left post to snatch a 2-1 lead over the Lancers (10-13-2).
Asher Booth’s goal sealed it with 13 minutes remaining.