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Loss haunts Spartans in more ways than one

Erik Boal

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE -- Long before the Rio Hondo League boys’ soccer

season even began, La Canada Coach Louie Bilowitz expressed two specific

concerns as it related to his team seeking a third straight title.

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The first dealt with devising a gameplan to slow down Blair, a team

with outstanding quickness and strong attacking midifelders.

The other, and much more important concern, dealt with how his squad

-- which lost 11 seniors and eight all-league players from a year ago --

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would respond from a loss like Wednesday’s.

The Spartans had trouble containing the Vikings from the get-go and

didn’t help matters any by struggling to coexist on the La Canada High

field, all of which worked heavily against them in a 3-1 loss in the

league opener for both teams.

“The chemistry we’ve been having in the past was totally nonexistent

today,” said Bilowitz, who lost just his 16th league match in his 15-year

tenure.

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“We didn’t have a winning attitude today and it wasn’t the product

that I wanted to see on the field.

Despite yielding six shots -- four on goal -- in the opening 14

minutes of the match, La Canada (7-2-1, 0-1 in league) still managed to

play to a 1-1 tie at halftime, thanks to Ashy Kaviani’s header inside the

right post off a perfectly placed corner kick by Han-Sol Halverstadt in

the 27th minute. But the warning signs for Bilowitz’s squad became

glaringly apparent early in the second half as players’ frustration with

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the officials, combined with the absence of senior defender Will Penniall

and the lack of a vocal on-field leader played right into Blair’s hands.

“In the second half, we just talked about playing the game the way we

can and focused on working hard individually and finishing plays,” said

Viking third-year Coach Carlos Rios, whose squad improved to 8-2, 1-0 in

league.

“We had to make our game happen and create what we could create,

because we knew if we could win here it would be pretty tough for them to

beat us at home.”

In the 46th minute, Alex Rios carried the ball on a breakaway down the

right sideline and fired a shot that was deflected by Spartan goalkeeper

A.J. Wickersham, but Blair’s Kofi Tolbert was in ideal position to tap

the rebound shot into a wide-open net.

Ten minutes later, the Vikings added an insurance goal as Jose Funes

-- much like teammate Oswaldo Pimentel did in the 14th minute for his

team’s first goal -- dribbled through a handful of La Canada defenders

and beat Wickersham inside the right post.

To his credit, Wickersham did a remarkable job against a relentless

Blair attack, recording 13 saves, with most being of the sprawled-out

diving variety.

BOX SCORE

Blair*1*2*--*3

La Canada*1*0*--*1

BLAIR -- O. Pimentel (14th minute), Tolbert (Rios, 46th minute), Funes

(56th minute).

* Saves: Robles 3.

LA CANADA -- Kaviani (Halverstadt, 27th minute).

* Saves: Wickersham 13.


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