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By Zach Cavanagh

MANHATTAN BEACH – At times, it wasn’t St. Margaret’s girls lacrosse’s most beautiful display, but the Tartans only needed two separate minutes of high-level execution to earn back-to-back Southern Section crowns on Saturday.

St. Margaret’s scored four goals in 39 seconds in the first half and another four in 68 seconds to open the second half to run away from Palos Verdes, 20-9, in the US Lacrosse Southern Section Championship at Mira Costa High School.

“I’ve known a number of these players since they were 11 and 12 years old, and to see them develop into strong athletes, strong women and a strong team is just really satisfying. It wasn’t as beautiful as we would have liked, but we toughed it out in the end.”

Junior Campbell Case scored five goals and added an assist to lead the Tartans. Senior Maddie Barkate scored four goals, and senior Niki Miles scored three goals and added two assists. Freshman Grace Karstetter scored three goals and collected an assist.

St. Margaret’s led 2-0 early and goalie Olivia Young didn’t face a shot until 10 minutes into the game. However, the Tartans weren’t quite pumping on full cylinders as Palos Verdes cut the lead to 2-1 to force a timeout from St. Margaret’s coach Holly Reilly.

“The switch wasn’t on,” Reilly said. “I told them, had you lost on Wednesday (in the county title game) but you got to play today, how hard would you play? So that was the mindset change. How hard would you play.”

From there the switch flipped with four goals in the 61 seconds following the timeout and a 7-1 run. Jordan Miles, Niki Miles, Barkate and Case scored 39 seconds apart to push back out.

Turnovers undid St. Margaret’s late in the half when Palos Verdes answered with four straight goals to cut the lead to three, 9-6. St. Margaret’s scored twice more in the first half, including a goal with one second remaining by Audrey Larson, for a 11-6 lead.

The Tartans scored six unanswered to open the second half, with the first four coming in a 68-second span. Case scored three of the four goals in the burst.

Up 17-6 at that point, the Tartans cruised to the finish as the clock rolled through to the 20-9 victory.

The win also marks the end of the US Lacrosse Orange County versus Los Angeles format as the CIF-SS takes over the playoff structure beginning next season.

“In many ways, it’s been nice to have that independence,” Reilly said. “We can run these games how we want, stream them how we want to stream them. For the growth of the sport, it’s important that CIF sanctions our playoffs and helps us move forward, so that the growth of the sport on the West Coast continues.”

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