ARCADIA — After languishing last season at the bottom of the Pacific League, the Crescenta Valley High boys’ soccer team needed something to change drastically.
That meant the Falcons needed to be prepared from the first practice of the season right through the last match of the regular season if they had any chance at turning around the program and getting back into the postseason. They did just that.
Alex Berger scored with three minutes left to give Crescenta Valley a 2-1 league victory against host Arcadia on Thursday afternoon.
The Falcons improved to 9-4-6 and 7-2-5 in league for 19 points and a third-place finish behind Burroughs and Pasadena (20 points each), who both pulled out victories Thursday to claim a share of the league crown.
A third-place finish might not have been imaginable several months ago, but the Falcons have clearly improved from last year’s two-win, last-place league finish.
“It’s been a dramatic change to go from last place last year to now getting [third],” said Crescenta Valley Coach Tino Morfin, whose team will learn its first-round playoff foe when the CIF office unveils the playoffs pairings Monday afternoon. “It’s a great job that’s been done by all of the players, because it’s good to see the players be able to develop.
“We were so close to winning league, but it’s important that we made the adjustments [from last season to now] so we could get to CIF.”
Arcadia (6-12-2, 2-10-2) gave Crescenta Valley all it could handle throughout the match. The Apaches resembled anything but a last-place team in the competitive league.
Arcadia knotted the match at 1 on a shot by Wesley Russell in the 50th minute. The Apaches proceeded to dictate the flow of the match over the next 20 minutes, aided by a wind at their backs.
Inevitably, Crescenta Valley overcame Arcadia’s bid to pull off an upset.
Berger, a freshman forward, turned the match around with a shot that deflected off an Arcadia defender and into the vacant net to clinch the victory.
“I knew that if I could get the shot on goal, then it would go in,” Berger said. “I just hoped for the best.
“[Coach Morfin] told us before the season what kind of team he thought we had. It’s something special to now be able to go to the playoffs. It feels good as a freshman, but it really feels good to do it for the seniors.”
Crescenta Valley took a 1-0 lead on a goal by freshman forward Pavle Atanackovic, who also scored a key goal to help spur the Falcons to a 3-1 league home victory against Burbank on Tuesday.
Just before Atanackovic scored, Arcadia’s Daniel Ortiz launched a shot that struck the bottom of the crossbar. Shortly thereafter, Crescenta Valley got the ball deep into Arcadia territory before Gor Grigoryan made a cross to Atanackovic for the goal.
Crescenta Valley, which picked up a 4-1 home victory against Arcadia in January, got five saves from senior goalkeeper Michael Bond. Bond made four saves in the second half, including stopping a deflected shot in the 49th minute.