LA CRESCENTA — In the 14th minute of Tuesday afternoon's Pacific League girls' soccer match between archrivals Crescenta Valley High and Arcadia, it was the hustle of Katie Callister that gave the Falcons a one-goal lead.
But for the majority of the 80 minutes in which the Falcons and Apaches went back and forth, it was the Crescenta Valley defense that played the largest role in giving the Falcons a one-goal win, as CV prevailed, 1-0, to claim first place in league all by its lonesome.
"It's the best feeling," said Falcons defender and captain Mallory Carcich of beating the rival Apaches. "We always want to beat them.
"There were some weak points [on defense], but we always come through. Our backline's very strong."
The backline was also very flexible, as the first half saw Carcich, Dani Busta, Sarah Worden and Casandra Orozco lock down the Apaches (3-2-1 in league), while the Falcons moved both Worden and Orozco up and moved Savannah Rhoads back to adjust to the Arcadia offense.
"We tried to adapt to their style, which I think we did," said first-year Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz. "I'm very pleased with all three in the back."
The Carcich- and Busta-led defense earned its sixth consecutive shutout — leading consequently to a fifth straight win and the continuation of an eight-match unbeaten streak. Aside from the rivalry win, the victory also put the Falcons (7-3-3, 5-0-2 for 17 points) into first place as a result of Burbank (4-0-3 for 15 points) defeating Burroughs (5-1-1 for 16 points) by a 1-0 score also on Tuesday.
Thus, as the win over Arcadia ended the first half of league for Crescenta Valley, it also began a three-match stretch that, in all likelihood, will decide the Falcons' league fortunes. On Friday, the Falcons will host Burbank before meeting Burroughs on Tuesday. CV tied both teams in their initial meetings.
"We're undefeated in the first half and we wanted to stay that way," Schulz said. "We wanted to come out as hard as we could against Arcadia to set us up for Friday.
"It's definitely set up for the rest of the league season."
And the Falcons believe their play as of late is reason enough to believe they can better the previous outcomes against Burbank and Burroughs.
"We're ready to beat them," Carcich said. "We're not tying."
At the onset of Wednesday's game, however, CV was reeling a bit, as Arcadia had its hosts going backwards in the very early going.
Callister changed all that during a scrum in the goalbox in which she barely flicked a shot forward that landed roughly 10 feet away from her and 10 feet in front of the goal. With the Arcadia goalie caught coming forward on a ball that actually spun backward, Callister bulled through a defender and poked in a 1-0 lead.
"It just bounced right," Callister said. "I just ran through and kicked it and the goalie was already out."
For much of the first half, the likes of Jordan Royer and Sierra Rhoads took more than a fair share of quality shots that were saved, hit off the post or crossbar or seemed to go just left or right. The Falcons would finish with eight shots to just two for the Apaches in the opening half.
That didn't mean there weren't still some precarious spots for the Falcons.
One came in which Carcich lost her footing while going one-on-one with her mark. As the last line of defense between her and goalie Allie Woodward, Carcich tied up her mark with her legs, earning a foul call and a direct kick. But as the kick sailed over a CV wall and the CV net, it proved to be a savvy foul at that.
Busta also came up huge when she turned her mark on a cross to stop a shot right in front of the net. But with Woodward going for the ball, as well, there was a loose ball in front of an open net that Busta hustled to clear.
"Our defense was really strong," Callister said.
The second half proved to be far more back and forth with CV holding a narrow 6-5 shot advantage, but the Falcons, who had been beat to a majority of 50-50 balls in the first 40 minutes, matched the Apaches energy. It was something Schulz was pleased to see.
"We came out much stronger in the second half," Schulz said. "[The Apaches] had [the momentum] in the first half, although we had a lot of scoring chances."
Added Carcich: "The second half, we really came out cause we knew we had to beat them."
And beating the Apaches is something that never gets old, certainly not for Schulz, a former Falcons player and assistant who was smiling ear to ear after her first rivalry win over Arcadia.
Said Schulz: "I love beating Arcadia and I think they would say the same thing."