LA CAÑADA — Having seemingly snagged the momentum late in the second half, the La Cañada High girls’ soccer team put itself in position to pull off a comeback in its first-round playoff match Thursday.
La Cañada, fresh off winning its first Rio Hondo League championship since 2014, tied the contest in the waning moments. Then, just nine minutes into overtime, the Spartans saw their season end in heartbreaking fashion.
Sydney Studer headed in a corner kick from Alexandra Martello in the 89th minute to lift Eleanor Roosevelt to a 2-1 victory against host La Cañada in a CIF Southern Section Division III first-round contest.
La Cañada (8-11-3) knotted the game at 1 with about two minutes left in regulation on a penalty shot by Ari Aghadjanians, giving the Spartans an instant spark and confidence. Roosevelt (15-4-3) then won it when Studer’s header went just inside the near right post.
“It’s definitely a tough one, but we came back and did so by doing some real good things,” said La Cañada first-year Coach Kevin Neumeier, who led the Spartans to their first league title since 2014. “I felt like we dominated most of the second half and then we tie it up with a couple of minutes remaining.
“I’m proud of the way our team came back. You just realize anything can happen on a golden goal.”
Roosevelt Coach Andrew Tillenkoch said the Spartans and Wolves played evenly throughout most of the match.
“They have a good team over there,” said Tillenkoch, whose team finished third in the Big VIII League. “We started the game off real well and we had some chances and then they came back in the second half and we had to weather the storm.
“On the winning goal, we got it into the sweet spot and there were bodies going after the ball. It went our way in the end, but that was a tough game.”
Roosevelt took a 1-0 lead in the second minute. Darrian Reed broke past two La Cañada defenders and looped a shot past goalkeeper Celine Cano-Ruiz.
The Mustangs held the lead late into the second half, when the Spartans threatened for the equalizer.
A direct kick by Charlotte Tapp struck the crossbar in the 73rd minute and caromed outside the box.
About five minutes later, a Roosevelt defender hauled down La Cañada’s Carrie DeSouza inside the box, drawing a penalty shot.
Aghadjanians, who was a member of the Spartans squad that advanced to the Division V championship match in 2014, was chosen to take the penalty shot.
Aghadjanians lined a shot just under the crossbar to make it 1-1.
“It’s the best feeling to be able to step up late and score on a penalty shot,” Aghadjanias said. “We got the goal and we were so hyped because we wanted to get the win.
“We felt like the momentum had shifted to our team and it was anybody’s game. Corner kicks are hard to defend and they did a good job on the winning goal. We have a team that's come a long way.”