LA CRESCENTA â€” Throughout most of their turnaround season, the members of the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team avoided costly defensive breakdowns.
That helped the Falcons challenge into the last week of the regular season for the Pacific League championship and got them to the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
Unfortunately for Crescenta Valley, several defensive miscues led to their season ending in a 3-2 loss to second-seeded Sierra Vista on Wednesday afternoon in a CIF Southern Section Division IV second-round home match.
Playing its first home playoff match this decade, Crescenta Valley (10-5-6) allowed Sierra Vista (20-2-2) to score its goals on blown coverage plays or by allowing the Dons to dart past the Falcon defenders toward the goal with the net reward of advancing to the quarterfinals Friday.
â€œWe had two problems that happened out there,â€ said second-year Crescenta Valley Coach Tino Morfin, who announced after the match that he will not return to coach Crescenta Valley next season. â€œWe let them score easy on their first two goals, and we didn't execute on our scoring chances.
â€œWe were there, but it's about the team that executes. Both teams had good chances, and I thought we could have done a little more.â€
Sierra Visa, which won the Montview League championship this season, led throughout the entire match that featured each squad scoring a pair of second-half goals.
The Dons opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Alfonso Espinosa spun around two Crescenta Valley defenders before beating Crescenta Valley senior goalkeeper Michael Bond on a low shot.
Crescenta Valley, which opened the postseason Friday with a 2-0 road victory against Hawthorne after placing third in league, then saw the Dons grab a 2-0 lead when Luis Rodriguez juked a Crescenta Valley defender and squeezed a shot past the sliding Bond in the 45th minute.
Crescenta Valley cut the lead to 2-1 when Gor Grigoryan's shot bounced in off the inside of the left post in the 65th minute off a pass from Pavle Atanackovic, but Sierra Vista regained its two-goal lead three minutes later on a header by an uncovered Luis Fuentes.
The Falcons closed to within 3-2 on a tally by Josh Morena off a corner kick from Gabe Ramirez with less than three minutes left, but didn't come close to getting the equalizer.
â€œIf you make mistakes in the playoffs, you'll get punished,â€ Ramirez said. â€œWe missed some chances in the first half, and we made some mistakes on defense.
â€œThat's the way it goes sometimes.â€
Morfin said the Falcons, who won only two matches last season, made some strides this season.
â€œI was happy that we were able to turn it around,â€ Morfin said. â€œThey tried their best [Wednesday].
â€œUnfortunately, we just weren't able to execute.â€
Bond finished with five saves, including four in the first half. Sierra Vista goalkeeper Rigo Moreno collected six saves, including one on a deflection of a Grigoryan shot in the 35th minute.
?CHARLES RICH covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3228 or email@example.com.