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Warriors win CIF girls lacrosse championship

The first-ever Fallbrook High School girls lacrosse CIF championship was won May 18 at Scripps Ranch High School, where the Warriors defeated Canyon Crest Academy in the CIF Division II final which had a 10-8 score.

“We really worked for it this year,” said Fallbrook senior Shea Morgan, who scored seven goals in the championship game.

“This is everything I ever worked for,” said Fallbrook senior Myah Pack, who was the Warriors’ goalkeeper.

Prior to 2021, the Warriors had not even been in a CIF girls lacrosse playoff game. Debbie Berg took over as the team’s head coach in 2020, although that year’s coronavirus shutdown limited the season to three games and approximately three weeks including practice.

The 2020-21 CIF seasons were compressed, so multi-sport athletes often had to choose a single sport. Fallbrook had 18 girls in the lacrosse program that year, which is not enough for a junior varsity team (girls lacrosse involves 12 players on the field for each team), and the 2021 Warriors were 5-8 overall including a first-round playoff loss and a 3-3 Valley League record.

“We were very much in the developing stage,” Berg said.

In 2022, the Warriors were 4-2 in Valley League competition for second place in the league standings. Fallbrook won a first-round playoff game against Point Loma for the Warriors’ first-ever girls lacrosse postseason victory, lost in the Division II quarterfinal to second-seeded Sage Creek, and finished with a 17‑4 overall record to share the San Diego Section’s victory lead with Open Division playoffs finalist Scripps Ranch.

The 2023 Warriors finished the regular season with a 16-2 record and were 5-0 in Valley League competition which provided the first league championship in program history. The Warriors had the second seed in the Division II playoffs, which gave Fallbrook a first-round bye. Fallbrook won an 11-7 quarterfinals match against Valley Center, but in the semifinals Our Lady of Peace eliminated the higher-seeded Warriors in a 9-7 game.

The loss to Our Lady of Peace taught the Warriors a lesson not to underestimate an opponent, which was applied in the 2024 final against Canyon Crest. “We did beat them twice,” Berg said. “They had every ability to beat us, and we did not take them for granted.”

Fallbrook’s 2023 roster included only two seniors, and the 2023 Warriors had the largest junior varsity roster in program history (boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse have been CIF San Diego Section sports since 2002). The 2024 Warriors were thus able to apply the lesson learned from last year’s playoffs.

During the 2024 regular season, Fallbrook won 15 games and lost four. One of those losses was to Carlsbad in Palomar League play, which gave the Lancers the league championship. “They were a very, very good team in our league,” Berg said.

Carlsbad won the CIF Division I championship to give the Lancers an 18-4 overall record. Fallbrook took second in the final league standings at 5-1.

The CIF playoff seeding and selection meeting May 4 gave Fallbrook the second seed in the Division II playoffs, so the Warriors had a first-round bye. Canyon Crest was seeded fifth, and the Ravens defeated 12th-seeded Valhalla by a 17-4 score in the first round.

Fallbrook hosted Westview in a May 10 quarterfinal and won that 16-9 game. Canyon Crest played at fourth-seeded Point Loma and took a 12-9 win over the Pointers in that quarterfinal.

Pacific Ridge, which was seeded sixth, also defeated a higher-seeded team in the quarterfinals. The Firebirds faced third-seeded Sage Creek and won by a 15-11 score. That gave Pacific Ridge a May 15 semi final in Fallbrook which ended as a 14-12 Warrior's triumph.

“That’s how you get here,” Berg said of the Warriors’ first championship game appearance. “You have to win semis to get here.”

During the regular season University City defeated Fallbrook, Canyon Crest, and Point Loma. The Centurions were 8-0 in Eastern League play and 15-3 during the regular season. All three of those losses were to Division I schools, and the Centurions had the top seed in the Division II playoffs, but Canyon Crest once again defeated a higher-seeded team and advanced to the championship game against Fallbrook with a 12-8 victory over University City.

The two regular-season games between Fallbrook and Canyon Crest were a 14-12 Warriors home triumph March 19 in pre-league play and a 14-10 Fallbrook league win April 16 at Canyon Crest. The Warriors began scoring in the CIF final 28 seconds into the game when junior Olivia Searle placed a shot into the net.

“It was really important because it kind of set the tone for the game,” Searle said.

“That first goal was awesome. I think it brought us that energy that we wanted,” Morgan said. “She has grown so much as a player.”

Someone other than Morgan scoring the Warriors’ first goal sent a message that shutting down Fallbrook’s primary attacker wouldn’t necessarily bring success. “Set the tone that everything is going to be spread around and every single person is a threat to score,” Berg said.

“It’s something we’ve worked on all year,” Berg said. “We had many weapons on our team. Shut down one, somebody else is open. Double-team one, somebody else is open.”

Morgan scored to give Fallbrook a 2-0 lead 40 seconds into the game.

The Warriors scored on both of their first two shots. The first Canyon Crest shot occurred with 9:45 left in the first period. Pack saved that attempt. “It sets up the tone for the game that you’re going to be making big stops,” Pack said.

With 8:17 left in the first period Canyon Crest senior Lake Mallery scored the Ravens’ first goal of the game. Ravens junior Petra Kozakowski tied the game with a goal 2:01 before time expired in the first quarter.

The momentum shifted to Canyon Crest, whose goal 1:19 into the second period gave the Ravens a 3-2 lead. Morgan tied the game with a goal 3:49 before the halftime whistle sounded, and with 22 seconds left in the half she scored again to give the Warriors a 4-3 halftime lead.

“I knew that I had to change things up,” Morgan said.

Mallery created a 4-4 tie by scoring 18 seconds into the third period. Morgan countered with a pair of goals 46 seconds and 90 seconds into the quarter. Kozakowski placed a shot into the net to make the score 6-5 with 3:01 left in the period and, 10 seconds later, Mallery tied the game with a score.

Morgan scored with 2:26 left in the quarter for a 7-6 Warriors advantage, but Kozakowski scored in the final second of the third period to make the score 7-7 entering the fourth quarter.

“Most intense game I ever had,” Pack said.

“Coming into that last quarter I knew I needed to bring something,” Morgan said.

That included a presence which would allow other players to handle the scoring. “I wanted to spread out and use my teammates,” Morgan said.

The quarters were 12 minutes long. With 9:53 left in the fourth period senior Jasmine Uresti scored a goal which put the Warriors ahead for the rest of the game.

“I’m glad to make my last year one of the best years,” Uresti said.

Fallbrook’s 2024 varsity roster included two Morgan sisters who combined for a total of eight goals in the championship game. The goal by sophomore Ashlyn Morgan was scored with 8:49 remaining. Shea Morgan created the game’s first three-goal lead by scoring with 8:38 left on the clock.

Kozakowski changed the score from 10-7 to 10-8 by placing a shot into the net with 7:06 remaining. “We played every single minute of that game,” Berg said.

The defensive effort was complemented by Ashlyn Morgan obtaining the ball late in the game and avoiding defenders to run time off the clock. “At that moment it was just about keeping our possession,” she said.

A final Ravens shot was blocked with 33 seconds remaining.

“I’m really glad how well we all worked together,” Searle said.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Shea Morgan said. “So glad not to lose at the very end.”

Lacrosse does not have CIF state or regional playoffs. Fallbrook finished the season with an 18-4 record as well as the CIF championship.

Berg is also Fallbrook’s field hockey coach. She piloted the Warriors to the 2019 CIF Division II championship in that sport, so the CIF lacrosse championship makes her the third Fallbrook coach to win CIF team championships with two different programs.

Boys cross country had Large School and Small School championship classifications in 1974 when Walt Parry coached the Warriors who won the Small School championship, and Parry coached the girls cross country team which won Class 1A CIF championships in both 1978 and 1979.

In 2012, the boys swim team coached by Bill Richardson won the CIF Division I team championship, and Richardson’s boys water polo team won the CIF Division II championship in 2014.

“I’m actually just very blessed,” Berg said. “I’ve enjoyed the ride.

Author Bio

Joe Naiman, Writer

Joe Naiman has been writing for the Village News since 2001

 

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