By Terry Monahan

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (June 27, 2018) - For almost 10 minutes, it looked as if San Diego Surf's Academy Championship hopes had been dashed without even making it out of group stage play. An edge in goal differential edge meant all the Surf needed was a draw to advance to Friday's U-15 Girls' Academy Playoffs at the SoCal Sports Complex.

The Surf trailed by a goal with about 10 minutes to play when an NTH Tophat defender was called for an inadvertant handball in the box. Dorrian Savage stepped to take the critical penalty kick. Her 72nd-minute shot into the far right corner of the net hit nothing but net to rally the Surf to a 2-1 victory on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals.

"We got new life,'' Surf coach Paul Dolinsky said. "I couldn't even watch the PK. Normally, I can watch, but this was such a big game against a quality team I had to look away. I watched faces for their reactions.''

"I knew I had this,'' Savage said. "I was confident because I knew what corner I was going for. We kept fighting. I knew we'd get at least one goal.''

Six minutes later, with NTH's attack pressing, Avery Nicholas intercepted a pass and added the game-winning goal for the Surf. San Diego just needed to keep the game tied.

Reaching the semifinals looked bleak for about 10 minutes after Tophats' Cate Hardin, who had just entered the game a few minutes earlier, scored the game's opening goal in the 62nd on a header off of a cros from Evelyn Shores. Savage had missed a golden scoring opportunity just before the Tophats took the 1-0 lead.

"I never thought it was over,'' Savage said. "I thought we could come back, especially since there was a lot of time left. When the hand ball happened, I was right around the defender."

Tophat should have gone to the break with a 2-0 lead, but Surf goalkeeper Isabella Grust made two clutch saves. She stopped NTH's Alexis Wright on a break-in on goal in the 24th minute. Then in the 26th, she stopped Tophat's Arianna Manrique's point-blank shot from the other side of the field. Grust finished with three saves, but those two were critical to the Surf's advancement.