CV set for Saugus showdown

GLENDALE — There won't be any ties this time.

The final outcome when the Crescenta Valley High girls' soccer team returns to Saugus High at 3 p.m. today for a playoff rematch of a Dec. 5 1-1 stalemate promises to be definitive, whether it's decided in regulation, overtime or penalty kicks.

The latter is familiar terrain for the Falcons, who advanced to today's CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinal with a 1-1 (4-2) road win over South Hills on Tuesday.

“It was a great win for us,” said Falcons sophomore forward Jordan Royer, who scored on a penalty kick on Tuesday. “Winning [Tuesday's] game definitely got us pumped for [Saugus].”

But, as thrilling as Tuesday's victory was, Crescenta Valley Coach Reggie Rivas would like to see his team take control a bit earlier in the match against the Centurions, who prevailed in a close second-round match of their own, 1-0, over Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy on Tuesday.

“It's gonna be a battle, hopefully we can keep it close early so we can give ourselves a chance,” said Rivas, who is in the first year of a reprisal of his role as Falcons coach, in which he previously led them to an appearance in the CIF finals in 2002. “We talked about how we're gonna have to have a quick start, we can't have a sluggish start.”

The Falcons (19-2-4) trailed South Hills, 1-0, at halftime and came back to tie the match with about 17 minutes left in regulation, but may not have that same opportunity if they fall behind Saugus early.

“We have to make sure that, as a team, we all come out strong, especially in the first 10 minutes,” Royer said. “We know that Saugus will take advantage if we're not coming out 100%.”

In the team's previous meeting, which started late due to a transportation glitch and was called three minutes early on account of darkness, the Falcons and Centurions traded early first-half goals.

It was just Crescenta Valley's second match of the season and saw the Falcons attempt just one shot in the second half, despite a decided possession advantage.

“We've gotten better skills-wise since then, but we're also a lot more united as a team,” said Falcons junior defender Dana Dowse, who, along with Olivia Sierra, Veronica Aguilar and Dani Busta is part of a back line that held South Hills, which scored its only goal on a free kick, to a minimum of opportunities on Tuesday. “But I'm sure Saugus has done the same thing, too.”

Saugus (17-3-3), which placed third in the Foothill League, but finished just two points out of first place, has shown itself to be a well-rounded team in the playoffs.

The Centurions exploded for eight goals in their playoff opener against Highland before shutting out the top-seeded Tologs in the second round.

“[This game] will definitely be a lot harder because this team's a lot faster and more aggressive up top than South Hills,” Dowse said.

Offensively, they are led by Erin Ortega and Shannon Suarez, who are both NCAA Division I signees.

“Everyone focuses on them, but there's the unsung heroes they have,” Rivas said. “They've got a great attack from their outside halfback. They're just an all-around, good, solid team, so I don't think you can focus on one or two kids.”

Crescenta Valley, which won the Pacific League and opened the playoffs with a 5-0 win over Chino, is led by Royer and Frances Boukidis up front, with a midfield anchored by senior captain Brittany Berger.

“I'm really looking forward to the game,” Rivas said. “I think it's great for both communities to have a good showing.”


?GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at gabriel.rizk@latimes.com.

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