It's been 31 years.

Patty Perkinson, physical education teacher and former college soccer star has guided Mira Costa girls soccer teams to Bay League championships, through the post season and right up to five CIF championship games.

But Perkinson has never hoisted the CIF Southern Section championship trophy.

That could change on Saturday when Mira Costa plays Oak Hills for the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 championship at Warren High School in Downey. 

“Of course, the journey has been exciting,” said Perkinson of this season. “Our two losses came from Palos Verdes in double overtime. It’s time to finish with a CIF title.”

The Mustangs go into Saturday's 1:30 p.m. match with not much knowledge of their opponent.

“We really don’t know much about the opponent although it will take our girls to play their game that they have been playing all season,” Perkinson said. “Playing as a unit, as a team.”

Except for the two blemishes on the season against Bay League champion Palos Verdes, this team has dominated with a 21-2 record. But they have to win against Joe Kulm's Oak Hills Bulldogs (21-4) to cinch the first soccer title in the school's history.

“I am so honored to have been a part of this team,” said Ashley Stepczyk, who is a captain. “This weekend we need to come out strong-the way we have the past couple of games and score early.”

Costa lost last year 2-1 in the Division 2 championship game to Sunny Hills, so it's the first time they've played in back-to-back CIF title games.

The road to the championship

The Mustangs are led by Grace Watkins, who has been a terror for opposing defenses with 29 goals on the season.

“We have been working all season and definitely have the ability to take home the championship," said Watkins.

There is a ton of talent on the team this year and every game we have done better in playing together, as a team.”

Mira Costa is the No. 1 seed in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs. They were ranked No. 1 in the final poll of the regular season while Oak Hills was ranked No. 6.

The Mustangs opened the tournament on Feb. 13 with a 3-0 victory at home against West Ranch and followed up with their hardest victory of the tournament over Culver City in the second round on Feb. 15 on the road. Mira Costa won 4-2 in penalty kicks to advance.

Mira Costa’s Hannah Bruhns scored the winning penalty kick versus Culver City.

In the quarterfinals at home on Feb. 19, Mira Costa defeated Woodbridge 3-0 advancing to play La Mirada. Chloe Hartley scored twice and Rachel Rosen added a goal.

The semifinal was at La Mirada last Saturday and they came out on top 1-0 after scoring a late goal.

“I was shocked,” said coach Perkinson of the scoreless first half. “Our team had been taking shot after shot and La Mirada’s goalie made phenomenal saves. It wasn’t until second half with five minutes left in the game. Grace Watkins put in a beautiful goal.”

Watkins has come through all year and did against the No. 5 ranked team.

“It felt amazing to finally put that goal in late in the game,” Watkins said. “We had so many chances that we couldn’t finish throughout the entire game and the last thing we wanted was to go into overtime and even worse, penalty kicks.”

Oak Hills will be busy trying to shut Watkins down.

“Grace Watkins will be a thorn in Oak Hills side,” Perkinson said.

Beating La Mirada was a big win for the team sending them to another championship.

“In the semifinal, I thought we did a really great job of shutting down their attacks and we were able to be very consistent,” said Mira Costa’s Sydney Miyasaki. “We also did an amazing job at creating chances to score even though we only scored one.”

Mira Costa can also play defense and does it very well. They have a school-record 16 shutouts on the year. Ashley Naylor is the final line of defense as the team’s goalie.

“This season we have had the most shutouts (13) in school history and we hope to add one more on Saturday,” Naylor said.

Oak Hills has had similar games in their half of the draw. They defeated Moorpark 3-1 at home in the first round. They ended Redondo Union’s season in Redondo Beach on penalty kicks, 5-4, after a 2-2 tie in the second round. Oak Hills edged Claremont at home 1-0 in the quarterfinals.

They beat Capistrano Valley 3-0 at home in the semifinals.

“I think we need to go into the final with the same mentality that we have had throughout,” Miyasaki said. “We have to be prepared for anything and work harder than before.”

Perkinson has enjoyed all the success this season.

“Our team is playing so well together. It has been so fun to watch them," said Perkinson. "This is such a huge accomplishment to get to the CIF finals and especially in the Southern Section—one of the toughest sections around.”

For the Mustangs, it has all come together for one last effort.

“The girls are so close and are jelling together so they know how each other plays,” said the coach. “They know strength and weaknesses. They have that desire and heart to win.”

As a team, they will be forever linked.

“This experience for the girls will be a memory they will take with them from high school,” Perkinson said.

It is already Mira Costa’s best season record wise. They are averaging almost five goals per game and have given up 12 goals during the whole season.

Now they just need to help coach hoist that first CIF championship hardware. 

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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