Falcons win Pacific League crown

LA CRESCENTA — There was no Tori Baldridge, there was no Brittany Berger and there was likely plenty who did not give the Crescenta Valley High girls’ soccer team much of a chance against archrival Arcadia in Thursday’s battle for the Pacific League title.

But it was the Falcons who found themselves celebrating as “We are the champions” cascaded their home field.

Sophomore Frances Boukidis had two goals in the match’s opening 10 minutes and fellow 10th-grader Jordan Royer added a goal and an assist thereafter as Crescenta Valley bested archrival Arcadia, 4-2, to win their third league title in five seasons.

“It’s great, I can’t even explain it,” said Boukidis, who scored goals in the seventh and ninth minutes to give the Falcons a commanding 2-0 lead. “We definitely felt like we needed to step up. We did that and that’s the great part.”

In the teams’ previous encounter, Crescenta Valley won, 1-0. But that was with the Apaches (16-5-2, 12-2 in league) playing without standout Vania Robles. And the Falcons (17-2-4, 13-1 in league), the eighth-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division II, had Baldridge, who scored the match’s only goal, and Berger, both of whom are multiple-time All-Area and All-Pacific League selections and team captains.

On Tuesday, with a chance to clinch a share of the league title, the Falcons were dealt their first league setback of the year, losing to Burbank, 2-1, in a game that saw Berger given a soft red card, thus her absence on Thursday, and saw Baldridge’s season come to a disappointing close when she fractured her foot.

Hence, it appeared the deck was stacked against the Falcons, but they certainly didn’t appear the part of the underdog.

“They wanted it,” said Falcons Coach Reggie Rivas, who navigated the Falcons to their first season sweep of Arcadia since 1997. “They came out fired up.”

Rivas, who coached the team in a previous three-year stint that included a CIF finals berth, garnered his first league title with the victory.

“I finally won a Pacific League title,” he joked. “I’m thrilled to death, I’m excited for the players.”

The excitement started early, as Boukidis made a run down the right side and crossed a pass that trickled into a goal.

“That was a pass to Brittani Dearman,” said Boukidis, who crossed a ball that just kept rolling, rather slowly in fact, until it hit the inside of the far post.

Boukidis’ next score found its way roughly to the same spot of the net, but was sent there with far more authority. Jordan Kirby played a ball up that Boukidis turned into another run, getting off a crossing shot just before she fell to the ground that went in for a 2-0 lead.

The aforementioned Robles scored the first of her two goals in the 34th minute, but the Falcons, who, if nothing more, showed ample amounts of reserve, regained a two-goal lead less than a minute later.

Midfielder Danny Cardenas, who played terrifically throughout, sent a ball up to Dani Busta who crossed it in to Whitney Cowell. Cowell maintained possession in a scrum and patiently kicked it out to Royer, who blasted in a mid-range shot for a 3-1 lead.

In the second half, a Royer corner kick was headed in by Veronica Aguilar to put the finishing touches on their offensive blitz.

Aguilar, Olivia Sierra and Dana Dowse, who took Berger’s spot as captain next to Baldridge, who was in a cast and a slipper rather than cleats, and moved into Baldridge’s position on defense, held strong in the backline.

“I knew we were all gonna come out with heart,” Boukidis said. “I’m ecstatic. We always come out our hardest against Arcadia.”

While Rivas was quick to acknowledge the magnitude of playing without Berger and the loss of Baldridge, it was those circumstances that made the win all that much sweeter.

“Each one of them knew that accountability was on their shoulders,” Rivas said. “They rose to the occasion and stepped up and played like they had to.”

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