Standing in between the Hart High girls soccer team and its coach, Guilherme Mitrovitch, at halftime Thursday were 20 or so plastic cones used for drills.
Each cone represented a player from either Hart or Long Beach Poly, which was using a diamond-shaped formation unfamiliar to the Indians.
“The girls were not used to it because we only played one team this whole year that played with a diamond in the middle,” Mitrovitch said.
The formation might have earned the Jackrabbits an early goal, but the familiar sight of Taylor Scott putting the ball in the back of the net set everything right again.
Scott scored from outside the 18-yard box with two minutes left in regulation to lift the Indians to a 2-1 home win and into the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
“I got chills from that (goal),” said Hart defender Mia Labrador.
Hart (20-2-4), which will host Upland on Tuesday in the second round, appeared more sluggish than usual in the first 15 minutes of the opening half, allowing Aaqila Mclyn to score for Poly (9-9-3) in the 14th minute.
“I think in the beginning our nerves got to us and especially their first goal,” Labrador said. “They had numbers up on us in the midfield and (Mclyn) had a rebound. We just had to stay strong and continue to maintain our shape.”
The Indians also struggled through the air. Midfielder Brooke Rickard, who usually takes care of headers, suffered a broken nose last week and didn’t seem as aggressive as normal.
With 10 minutes remaining until halftime, Hart scored off a corner kick for a much-needed jumpstart.
Labrador won the first ball with a header, then Allison Long finished it off to tie the score at 1-1.
Overtime seemed to be looming as both teams looked to have equal time with the ball, but the Indians had an unexpected boost as the end of the second half inched closer.
“I thought about if I was going to sit some girls for overtime, but the momentum was so good I just had to ride the momentum and hopefully we could finish before overtime,” Mitrovitch said.
It was the right call. Scott fired a laser into the net with 2:05 left in the half.
“I saw they only had one defender on me, and I touched a pass and shot it in the top right corner,” Scott said.
Now that Hart has its first Division 1 playoff win taken care of, the team believes it’ll be more confident moving forward.
“We need to bring our ‘A’ game,” Mitrovitch said. “If we bring our ‘A’ game we can compete with anybody.”