In a 0-0 (4-3) second-round victory on Tuesday against Aliso Niguel, an at-large entry, Sacred Heart (19-1-1) struggled to find its game and rhythm against an opponent that played long ball. Against a Tesoro squad (15-3-6) that essentially tried to match Sacred Heart with a similar style, the Tologs looked to find their footing early and did so with a beautiful score from Katie Johnson that seemed to open everything up.
"The first goal in a game like this is gonna be critical," Pace said.
Added Koemans: "We knew they had a great offense. For us to score first, that gave us so much momentum."
It was momentum that was briefly lost with a 47th-minute score by Tesoro's Cailey Starck, but regained on a brilliant sequence that ended with a Koemans score that stood as the game-winner, propelling the Tologs to their second consecutive CIF semifinal berth, this time in Division I after last season's Division II ascent.
"Everyone has their goals and we knew it was gonna be a really big struggle," Koemans said of moving up to Division I and particularly facing a swell of Orange Country opposition. "We've just been working really hard and playing for each other. And I'm grateful we have made it this far.
"To make it to the semifinals is great."
Sacred Heart will face second-seeded Esperanza, which posted a 1-0 win against Mission Viejo, on the road in a semifinal match Tuesday.
Scoring opened Thursday with the hustle of Tologs junior midfielder Tera Trujillo, who worked for the ball and passed it up to an off-balance Koemans, who one-timed a pass, flicking it up the field to Johnson. Johnson took the ball in stride and moved past a defender on her right hip, while streaking left to the near post. Drawing goalie Ashley Penton to the near post, Johnson was somehow able to blast a shot with her right foot inside the far post for a magnificent score.