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Soccer

Los Alamitos Girls Soccer Falls In Cif, Lahsgirlssoccer (@Lahsgirlssoccer)

Santiago players celebrate on the field after beating Los Alamitos 2-0 in the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals Tuesday in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

LOS ALAMITOS — Los Alamitos spent most of the first half-hour on top of Santiago’s box in Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section girls soccer quarterfinal, pinging the ball around as the Griffins so often do, and watched its dominance go unrewarded.

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It couldn’t have gone better for the visiting Sharks, who spent most of the rest of the match in charge, put away goals eight minutes apart, and took a big step toward a second successive Division 1 title with a 2-0 triumph.

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Los Alamitos’ Colby Barnett almost scores for the Griffins but it hits the post as they take on Santiago in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Los Alamitos’ Tabbi LaParl tries to keep the ball from Santiago’s Haley Clark as the two teams battle it out in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Autumn Thompkins gets the ball in front of Los Alamitos’ Chase Koepke as the Sharks take on the Griffins in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Brianna Garcia battles Los Alamitos’ Khalia Gathright for the ball as the Sharks take on the Griffins in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Los Alamitos’ Tabbi LaParl tries to keep the ball from Santiago’s Payten Harmon as the two teams battle it out in the CIF quarterfinals in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago players celebrate Autumn Tompkins’ goal that put them up 1-0 over Los Alamitos in the CIF-SS quarterfinals in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Shelby Irwin tries to get the ball from Los Alamitos’ Colby Barnett as the two teams battle it out in the CIF quarterfinals in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago players celebrate on the field after beating Los Alamitos 2-0 in the CIF-SS Division 1 quarterfinals Tuesday in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Los Alamitos’ Colby Barnett tries to keep the ball from Santiago’s Shaye Douglas as the two teams battle it out in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Shelby Irwin battles for the ball with Los Alamitos’ Kaylee Noble as the two teams compete in the CIF quarterfinals in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Krystal Medina tries to get the ball through Los Alamitos’ Summer Allen and Khalia Gathright as the Sharks take on the Griffins in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Santiago’s Krystal Medina looks to get the ball from Los Alamitos’ Khalia Gathright as the Sharks battle the Griffins in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

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Los Alamitos’ Tabbi LaParl keeps the ball from Santiago’s Shelia Sanchez as the two teams battle it out in Los Alamitos, CA, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Tracey Roman, Contributing Photographer)

Autumn Thompkins won and then converted a penalty kick in the 63rd minute, and tiny, freshman spark plug Krystal Medina — Santiago’s “4-foot Messi” — dribbled through a half-dozen defenders and finished nonchalantly in the 71st.

The fourth-seeded Sharks (15-1-1) set up a showdown Saturday at No. 1 Harvard-Westlake (14-0-1), a 6-3 winner over Temecula Valley on six goals by Alyssa Thompson.

No. 3 Villa Park (14-0-3) will be home in the other semifinal, against Pacifica (12-2-3), which beat No. 2 Mater Dei on penalty kicks.

Santiago might have been an unexpected champion last year, but Mike Fleming’s side isn’t surprising anyone now.

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“It feels amazing. It’s a dream come true, just being able to do this back-to-back …,” said Thompkins, who had four club teammates in Los Al’s lineup. “Getting that PK was a game-changer. It definitely switched the tides and allowed us to build our confidence, and from then on out, there was no stopping us.”

The Sharks, anchored by holding midfielder Payten Harmon, were superb in their defensive third and used fresher legs and pace up top to take command in the second half.

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They came out sharp, getting into Los Al’s goalmouth on their first foray and hitting the crossbar, on a Thompkins blast, not quite two minutes in. Then the fifth-ranked Griffins (11-3-1) played something akin to keep away for the next 25 minutes.

It led to just one real chance, with Colby Barnett heading off the right post in the 23rd minute from an arcing ball over the backline delivered by Tabitha LaParl, and Los Alamitos exited the span a tad ragged and frustrated.

“It’s playoff soccer, which a lot of times is about ‘bend, don’t break,’ ” Fleming said. “When you get to this level, both teams are going to ask questions of each other, and it’s the team that can keep their composure, be true to their principles, believe in themselves (that will prevail). … Goals change games, whether you concede them or you get them.”

Thompkins and Medina, who popped up all over the place, were at the heart of it all, and Thompkins was expert in creating the first goal, taking a feed from Brianna Garcia, and racing past center back Khalia Gathright, who took the forward down.

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The spot kick provided more momentum. Medina’s goal left the Griffins reeling, and their late push led nowhere.

“They were the better team today,” Los Alamitos coach Pat Rossi said. “They put away their chances and we didn’t at the beginning, and I think that was the mark of the game.”

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