Cathedral Catholic’s Olivia Erlbeck (right) battles for control against Santa Margarita’s Natalie Kennedy.
It turns out Cathedral Catholic junior Kelsey Irwin was saving her first goal of the girls soccer season for a key moment.
That came in the Southern California Regional Division II semifinals on Thursday. Irwin converted off a free kick with eight minutes left in the first half to open the scoring and start the host Dons on their way to a 4-1 victory over Santa Margarita in their bid for a repeat championship.
Shelby Cormier recorded two goals and Olivia Erlbeck had another to help fuel top-seeded Cathedral Catholic (25-2-3), which advanced to the final at 10:30 a.m. Saturday against La Costa Canyon.
San Diego Section teams are in five of the six SoCal Regional championship matches, all at Warren High in Downey.
“It was exciting to score,” said Irwin, a sweeper, who routinely takes free kicks. “But it’s been more about the team putting it away and being successful.”
Cormier registered her first goal on a long-range blast off an assist from Dana Dalton five minutes after Irwin’s goal to stake Cathedral to a 2-0 halftime edge over No. 4 Santa Margarita (16-4-4), the Southern Section Division I champion.
The Dons, coming off their third straight San Diego Section title in Division I this season, extended their unbeaten streak to 21 games with a 90-19 overall scoring edge over opponents heading into the regional final.
“This year, there’s a little extra pressure, but it makes it that much more fun,” said Cormier, a junior defender, who increased her season total to six goals. “We’ve been there and won, so we know what it takes.”
The Dons held a 3-0 edge before allowing a goal for the first time in five playoff contests on a penalty kick with 11 minutes left. They then put away their first triumph ever over Santa Margarita, which has frequently played in Cathedral’s early-season tournament.
“This was one of our best wins ever,” said Cathedral coach Dawn Lee, in her 16th season. “We’re playing better every game, and that’s what you want to do.”
Division II girls: Host La Costa Canyon reached the regional final with a 4-0 win over visiting Verdugo Hills.
Division III girls: Third-seeded Francis Parker (25-1-2) plays No. 4 Santa Monica Marymount (15-5-3) for the SoCal title at 5 p.m. today.
Division I boys: Carlsbad defeated host Van Nuys Birmingham 1-0. The Lancers will play L.A. Loyola at 6 p.m. Saturday for the championship.
Division II boys: Rafael Espinoza scored twice as San Diego Southwest upset top-seeded and host L.A. Cathedral 2-1. The Raiders will face Simi Valley Royal for the title at 1 p.m. Saturday.