With a late goal from forward Danielle Vargas, the Highland High girls soccer team beat Liberty-Madera Ranchos 1-0 in the Central Section Division III championship game.
The win gave the Scots a third consecutive section title.
"It's beyond excitement," Highland coach Tom Ferralli said. "Getting to a Valley championship once is something in itself, twice and then the third time ... it only gets better.
"It's just beyond exciting -- so proud of what they did. They battled all season long and we finished undefeated on our home field. When you see all these people out here that supported us, it's just all about pride and this feeling is just fantastic."
Just like in their two previous playoff games, the Scots (20-6-2) had trouble in the first half as the Hawks controlled possession and kept the ball on the Scots' side of the field.
The Hawks (23-4-3) had more shots on goal in the first half as well, 8-3.
Fortunately for the Scots, their defense, along with goalkeeper Rebecca Vega, was in top form as it held off the Hawks offense to keep the game tied 0-0 at halftime.
In the second half, the Scots turned the table on the Hawks as they came out as the more aggressive and attacking team.
"We definitely seemed to be a second-half team this year, and it's evident with how we played the last two games and today," Ferralli said.
The Scots offense started to get more shots on goal in the second half, but just couldn’t manage to break the scoreless tie. Then, with five minutes left in the game, Vargas scored the go-ahead goal, which went through the hands of Hawks goalkeeper Allison Seather.
“I actually thought she was going to catch it, but it went through her hands," said Vargas, who also scored the go-ahead goal against Visalia-Central Valley Christian in the semifinals. “I was so excited and so happy, and I knew that we did it.”
Vargas commented on the school winning its third straight title.
“I’m so happy for my team because we have come so far. I’m just very proud of them. It’s really exciting for me because I have been here since my freshman year and so far I have gotten Valley all three years. Not everybody gets to do that.”
Ferralli shared in the emotion.
“These are my girls,” he said. “I spent four months with them; they have become part of my life and they’re just like my own. I’m just so excited for them and I’m blessed that I could be a part of their life.”