Hustle and heart were vital to the success that San Clemente's girls soccer team enjoyed throughout the season.
With a CIF-SS championship berth hanging in the balance, that combination provided another invaluable lift for the Tritons.
Sophomore Danielle Mellem scored the tying goal in the second half, and the Tritons advanced to their fourth consecutive Division 1 title game by defeating Santa Margarita, 4-2 in penalty kicks, after the teams played to a 2-2 tie in the semifinals Tuesday at Santa Margarita.
"We never gave up and showed our perseverance and determination to win," Tritons senior Madison Kaminski said.
San Clemente (19-2-7), which has won two of the last three Division 1 titles, will face Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada in the final. The Tologs defeated defending champion Esperanza, 1-0, in overtime in Tuesday's other Division 1 semifinal.
"I was disappointed by the way we started, but the key was our ability to come back," Tritons coach Stacey Finnerty said.
"We're going to prepare for the title match against Flintridge Sacred Heart by sticking to our game plan and playing to our strengths. I also think our experience will help us."
Santa Margarita (24-4-3) opened the match establishing possession and took the lead in the 10th minute on a goal by sophomore Samantha Trenary.
The Eagles nearly added to the lead less than two minutes later, when senior Lauren Bohaboy found a crease in the middle of the box. But her subsequent shot attempt was stopped on a nice diving save by Hapsic.
San Clemente's offense began to create chances and penetrate the attacking third midway into the half, but senior Taylor Krebs cleared two scoring opportunities away to help the Eagles keep the lead.
The Tritons tied the score, 1-1, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half on a goal by senior Mikaela Carrillo.
In the second half, Taylor Krebs scored for Santa Margarita and Mellem evened the match for the Tritons.
Santa Margarita reclaimed the lead less than a minute after the opening kickoff of the second half. Off a deep penetrating run toward the goal, senior Leigh Edwards uncorked a crossing pass that was knocked away by Hapsic. But the ball bounced to her left and Krebs sent a shot into a wide open goal.
The Tritons tied the match again seven minutes later. Senior Tessa Andujar sent a pass down the left sideline to senior Frannie Coxe, whose cross pass toward the middle found Mellem racing toward the goal. Though heavily defended, she managed to curl her foot to reach the ball and got off a shot that rolled past Eagles senior goalie Haley Guerrero.
"I got the cross, got my foot around (the defender) and knocked it in," Mellem said.
Both teams traded deep runs into the attacking third throughout the remainder of the half before Santa Margarita nearly took the lead in the final minute. But a high line drive free kick by Bohaboy ricocheted off the crossbar.
After two scoreless 10 minute "golden goal" overtime periods, the teams were tied at 1 in the penalty kick session when freshman Natalie Higgins sent a shot into the right corner of the net to give the Tritons a 2-1 lead.
Trenary's next attempt sailed over the crossbar, and the Tritons finished off their 15th consecutive match without a loss with successful conversions from seniors Alex Reisinger and Kaminski.
"We played well and left everything out there today," Eagles coach Chuck Morales said. "They (San Clemente) are a championship-caliber team and were able to sustain and come back."