The Sea Kings (13-5), ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division I coaches' poll, didn't shoot as well in the second half against Santa Margarita (13-8), ranked No. 5 in Division II. They scored just once in the final 12-plus minutes, after senior Devon Greenlee's goal from about seven meters with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
Santa Margarita was down 8-5 at halftime but inched closer, with Morgan Martinez's penalty shot goal late in the third quarter then fellow sophomore Emily Loughlin's power-play strike with 5:14 left in the game.
CdM's lead was cut to one, at 10-9, and Greenlee and senior Lauren Marks had both fouled out. The action grew frantic, with CdM getting called for several offensive fouls and Santa Margarita trying to post up Loyola Marymount-bound senior Mackenzie Beck on the other end of the pool.
Beck is a problem for defenses. She's top 10 in Orange County in scoring with her 78 goals.
"They were one goal away," said CdM sophomore Cassidy Papa, who had a team-high three goals as well as two steals. "We just needed to take a deep breath and calm down. We shut down a couple of their timeout plays, which was key for us."
Junior Diana Murphy, who had two goals and a game-high four steals, stole the ball from Beck with about three minutes left. But after another CdM offensive foul, Beck got free on a counter with 2:30 to go.
CdM junior goalie Alex Musselman (12 saves) affected the shot enough that it went off the bar. Musselman then threw the ball to the corner of the pool before Beck could try for a rebound goal.
Musselman had a similar play in the first half, when Beck got open in front of the goal but her shot went off the right post.
"We created the opportunities," Santa Margarita Coach Kevin Ricks said. "The girls did a great job. Musselman is just so tough. That's what a good goalie does."