Crescenta Valley hits the road

GLENDALE — There is not much that the Crescenta Valley High girls’ soccer team will go in knowing about its CIF Southern Section Division II opponent when it travels to face South Hills today at 3 p.m. at Covina District Field.

But with the Falcons perhaps playing their best soccer of the year as of late, they’re focus is on playing their game and overcoming the obstacle that is the Huskies, who stand in front of Crescenta Valley advancing to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002.

“We’re gonna focus on what has gotten us this far,” said Falcons Coach Reggie Rivas, who, during his first stint at Crescenta Valley piloted the program to a berth in the finals in 2002, when current assistants Jorden Stanley and Stephanie Villa were on the field, rather than the sidelines. “We need to keep playing with emotion, keep working hard and capitalize on their mistakes and limit our own mistakes.”

Still, while a detailed scouting report might be absent for the Falcons (18-2-4), they’re hardly underestimating the Huskies (14-8-2), who finished second in the San Antonio League.

“Obviously they’re here for a reason,” Rivas said. “They’ve won a lot of games.”

Crescenta Valley has won 12 of its last 13 games, but it is the team’s past two contests that have truly been eye-openers. The Falcons lost to Burbank, 2-1, on Feb. 10 in their only Pacific League defeat, but have since dispatched Arcadia, 4-2, to claim their third league title in five seasons and then opened up the playoffs on Thursday with a 5-0 dismantling of Chino.

“Everybody’s just working really hard and everybody’s working really well together,” said Falcons sophomore forward Jordan Royer. “I think this is probably some of the best soccer we’ve played.”

South Hills Coach Scott Mocabee finds himself and his team in largely the same predicament, as neither the Huskies or Falcons are familiar with each other. Nevertheless, judging by strength of schedule, results and the little he does know about Crescenta Valley personnel, Mocabee believes his team is firmly entrenched in underdog status.

“It’s gonna be a case where it’s gonna be a little bit of an unknown,” said Mocabee, whose team defeated Chaffey, 1-0 in overtime, on Thursday. “I think we’re gonna have our hands full. ...I think we are by far the underdog.”

Royer, the Falcons’ leading scorer with 12 goals and 13 assists, has tallied two goals and two assists over the last two games, keying a resurgent Crescenta Valley offense that has also been bolstered by the likes of junior Frances Boukidis and senior Brittani Dearman.

“We are just really clicking right now,” said Royer of the offense. “I think we’ve really figured out how to play with each other.”

Seven Falcons have scored five or more goals this season. In contrast, the Huskies offense, at least statistically speaking, hinges primarily on Natalie Maxey and Mayra Almazan. Maxey has scored an eye-popping 25 goals, while sharing the team lead for assists of eight with Almazan, who also has 16 goals.

South Hills’ defense has also put up formidable numbers, tallying 11 shutouts. The Huskies, who finished second in league behind Walnut, which lost in the opening round, have won six of their last seven matches and their last three, all via shutout.

But Mocabee still characterizes his defense as a “work in progress” and believes it will be put to its strictest test to date.

“[Today] will be the first time they’ve been tested in a while,” he said.

“We have to go in expecting them to be great because they’ve gotten to exactly the same place we are,” Royer said.

Crescenta Valley, which has a defense that has tallied 12 shutouts, has shined early in its last two matches, taking two-goal leads inside the first 20 minutes in both games.

“I think it’s very crucial,” said Rivas of starting the game well. “You kind of size each other up in the first 10 or 15 minutes.”

The victor in Tuesday’s tilt will face either Saugus, which Crescenta Valley tied earlier this season, or No. 1 seed Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in a match that would surely have the community abuzz.

Regardless of the outcome, Crescenta Valley has already put together a successful body of work when considering some of its previous occurrences.

In the aforementioned loss against Burbank, Crescenta Valley lost top players Tori Baldridge and Brittany Berger to an injury and a red card, respectively. Hence, the Falcons played without both in their win over Arcadia and without Baldridge, who’s out for the remainder of the season with a foot fracture, against Chino. Other than Baldridge, Rivas said there are no other serious injuries, but did say Royer, Veronica Aguilar and Danny Cardenas were a bit banged up.

“It’s like any high school team this time of year,” Rivas said, “it’s survival of the fittest.”

In addition, the Falcons have already improved mightily on last season in which they took a disappointing third in league and lost in the opening round of the playoffs. Apparently, it fueled a desire that’s currently being put into play.

“I think our team is really staying focused,” Royer said. “I think everybody wants this so bad, especially since last year we didn’t do as well as we know we could.”


 GRANT GORDON is the sports editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3225 or grant.gordon@latimes.com.

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