SeaLions Stumble In Final, But See A Bright Future
August 3, 2016
Photo by Aaron Jaffe
COLUMBUS, OH -- The San Diego SeaLions came up short on Sunday, dropping the WPSL Championship match 3-0 to a well-drilled Boston Breakers Reserves side. It was San Diego's second appearance in the Final Four in the last four years and , by all indications, not their last.
"We'll be back," said San Diego coach Jen Lalor, emphasizing her sense that the final score was misleading. The game was tied through the 50< minute and the SeaLions were pressing forward, a tactic that had served them well during their playoff run, but the experienced Breakers capitalized on a counterattack. Likewise, Boston’s third goal came in the 90< minute with San Diego again pushing their attack.
"Not to take anything away from Boston,” Lalor added. “They are a solid, methodical, professional reserve club. The fact that we feel we could have won this game, despite missing some key veteran players, signals the beginning of a bright future.”
The results from San Diego’s last five regular-season matches prove the point. After tying Tucson 2-2 on the road June 24, the SeaLions used a deft mix of new and veteran talent to compile a 5-0 run to win the WPSL Pac South Division easily, outscoring their opponents 16-1 while getting goals from eight different players. The common denominator was veteran creative midfielder Rose Tantillo-Colon’s return to form after some early-season absences.
Tantillo-Colon (USC/FC Gold Pride) contributed six assists and three goals with her link-up play over those five matches plus three playoff games, as well as an intangible, yet palpable, increase in confidence from the team on the field which peaked through the playoffs as the SeaLions took down Sacramento Storm, Seattle Sounders, and 2011 W-League champs Atlanta Silverbacks to reach the final. This was critical to the offensive production from rookies Melissa Everett (Oregon) and Ashley Johnson (Vista Murrietta HS) and second-year forward Angelina Hix (Mira Costa), who combined for six of the SeaLions’ eight playoff goals.
“Rosie’s play was invaluable, especially in our come-from-behind win over Seattle,” assistant coach Lu Snyder said of Tantillo-Colon’s two assists and a goal in that match. “She linked our defense with our offense in the midfield and was able to direct, and spread, our points of attack. We missed her in the final. But she has been a remarkable example and leader for the younger players.”
San Diego finished the season 11-1-1 in the 104-team WPSL, outscoring the opposition 33-7 enroute to the Final. A club-record thirteen SeaLions found the back of the net. Hix led the way with 11 goals including three in the playoffs, followed by Elise Britt (UCLA) with four. Johnson, like Tantillo-Colon, scored three, and Janelly Farias (UC Irvine), Keira Bocchino (UCSD) and Everett tallied two each. Solo goals by Taleen Taylor (Boston U), Sam Seiders (SDSU), Maddie Tierney (Xavier), Soli Gomez (SDSU), Cassie Callahan (UCSD), and Leigh Brown (USD/FC Kansas City) rounded out the scoring totals.
And it was solid defense, anchored by goalkeeper Kaycee Gunion (CSU-San Marcos), a 2015 WPSL All-Star, and a rotation of Grace Shevlin (SDSU), Caroline Shevlin (St. Mary’s), Brown, Abigail Callahan (DePaul), Victoria Gersh (Villanova), and Karina Cisneros (Chapman) which enabled the SeaLions to focus on their offense. “Our defense this season never seemed uncomfortable, even on the rare occasions when we fell behind,” noted Snyder. San Diego’s stingy goals-against mark (10 in 13 games) is even more remarkable given that the WPSL’s Pac South Division and West Region are often regarded as the toughest soccer hangouts in the country. Indeed, three of the past six WPSL Champions have come from Southern California.
“Our foundation as a team is our philosophy that we can beat anyone, anytime,” agreed Lalor and Snyder. “We’ve reached the point where we expect to be here, in the Final Four, every summer. So even though we lost this game, we are exactly where we want to be.”
The San Diego SeaLions are a non-profit 501c3 entity dedicated to fostering women's soccer coaching, playing, and business management opportunities. It’s one of the oldest and most successful women’s soccer clubs in the USA and is a charter member of the WPSL.