Sharks clinch CIF championship

The Sharks celebrate their victory as head coach John Johnstone hoists the championship plaque. Photo by Sam Rubinroit

The historic win marks the school’s first CIF championship for Malibu High School girls soccer.

By Sam Rubinroit / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu High School girls soccer team earned the CIF Division VI Championship on Saturday, defeating Desert Christian High School in the finals, 3-2.

Malibu skated easily through league play, earning an undefeated 9-0-1 record as it claimed its second consecutive Frontier League title. A dominant defense led by senior Kelcie Meyer, juniors Gigi Wooller and Claire Kiefer, sophomores Coral Silverberg and Paige Stoker, freshman Kate Klevitt and sophomore goalie Maddie Clarfield boasted 14 shutouts, including three in the postseason. In the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Sharks had little trouble advancing, winning by scores of 6-0, 3-0 and 6-0 over Yucca Valley, Mammoth, and San Jacinto high schools, respectively.

The girls faced real adversity for the first time in the semifinals game against Ontario Christian High School last week Wednesday. Though Ontario scored first, Malibu responded with a goal from senior Dakota Gross. At the end of regulation, the score remained tied 1-1.

After two 40-minute halves, both teams were visibly tired. Nevertheless, they took the field for what would be two scoreless, 10-minute, sudden death overtime periods. As the sun went down, the game went into penalty kicks to decide who would be playing for the championship three days later.

“They were pretty tired,” Malibu head coach John Johnstone said after the game. “But they wanted it really bad, and were keeping themselves going in the huddle before we went back out for overtime and for [penalty kicks].”

After Gross, Claire Haft, and Kristiana Konkol converted their shots for the Sharks, it came down to an opportunity for Ontario. A miss would propel Malibu into the finals, a make would prolong the duel. Clarfield came up with her third save in penalty kicks, and the Sharks, followed by excited fans, rushed onto the field to surround her.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Haft, a cocaptain, said after the game. “I was so scared my heart was out of my chest.”

Their final opponent, the Desert Christian Knights, was the team that eliminated the Sharks from the playoffs the year before in penalty kicks.

The first half of Saturday’s game passed without either team scoring. Malibu opened the second half with Konkol providing two goals in the first six minutes, bolstering the team’s spirits and those of the fans.

Nevertheless, the Knights appearance in the finals was no fluke, and 42 seconds after Konkol’s second goal they responded with one of their own. Six minutes later, they tied the game, 2-2.

Both teams, determined not to give in, battled for every free ball and fought for every header. With less than 20 minutes to play, a Desert Christian player broke past the Sharks’ defense and a Malibu player was forced to foul her, awarding the Knights a penalty kick. The shot, low and left, bounced off the post and away from the goal.

After nearly seeing the game slip away, the Sharks responded in spectacular fashion. Konkol earned a hat trick with her third goal of the game, giving Malibu a 3-2 lead with just little more than seven minutes to play. The Knights continued to pressure, but the Sharks were able to hold them off, booting the ball far down the field in an effort to run down the clock.

As the end of the game drew near, Malibu fans counted down the final seconds as players on the sidelines began to jump with excitement. As the final whistle sounded, the girls rushed to the middle of the field, cheering and hugging. After a hard-fought battle, a few Desert Christian players fell to the ground in tears, unable to reproduce the outcome of their match-up last season.

“I literally couldn’t breathe,” Malibu Co-Captain Samantha Holst said of her reaction after the game. “I went to scream, ‘We won!’ but I didn’t have the breath. I was just in awe. We’ve been working for years on this goal, and finally it’s accomplished. It feels so good to end on this note.”

Following a stellar game, Konkol said the best part was scoring her third goal.

“I’m just really happy. The game was tied, and we really wanted to win, so when I scored the last goal it was a good feeling.”

The semifinal game was the greatest challenge the Sharks faced all season, and it helped prepare them for the battle against Desert Christian.

“I think both teams really stepped it up,” co-captain Caysie Beetley said. “I think we were more prepared because we had to fight last game. [Desert Christian] has just breezed through everybody, and they hadn’t been up against anyone as tough as us yet.”

After receiving their trophy, the Sharks rushed to share it with family and friends who had come a long way to support them. Though Johnstone was thrilled to receive the championship plaque, he understood the greater meaning it had to his players.

“It’s awesome for the girls. Ever since losing in the quarters to that team last year, it’s been our goal to beat them in the finals. In the end, the better team did win today.”

The win was historic for the Sharks, marking the school’s first CIF Championship for girl’s soccer. It was also the final game for Malibu’s five seniors-Haft, Gross, Holst, Beetley and Meyer-all of whom have been four-year starters on varsity. Though the seniors are moving on, they will forever be immortalized in a banner hanging in the Malibu High gym rafters.

“We made our mark,” Beetley said. “It feels really good, and I think we’ve shaped our legacy.”