SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — Over the past two seasons, the Crescenta Valley High girls' soccer team's quest to become Pacific League champion came down to the very last league game.
This time around, there was no need for last-game heroics.
Instead, title glory came early and it came easy, as the Falcons got past host Glendale, 3-0, to three-peat as league champions.
But rather than celebrate after the victory, the Falcons were running. In fact, they ran for most of the first half of the subsequent junior varsity match as first-year Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz' disappointment with her team's effort overshadowed any excitement about a league crown.
"If they don't play to their potential, I'm not happy. And they didn't," said Schulz, whose team locked up an insurmountable 33 league points to put itself in front of Burroughs (9-2-2 in league for 29 points) and Burbank (7-0-6 for 27 points) with just one league game left to play. "We won the game, which won us the title, but we're far from where we should be."
Goals by Sarah Worden, Sierra Rhoads and Jordan Royer came in an eight-minute span during the first half, giving the Falcons (12-3-4, 10-0-3) a more-than comfortable lead. The apparent downfall was it created a lackluster work rate for the champs.
"Since it happened like that, I think that's why a lot of us were laid back," said Falcons defender Dani Busta, who had an assist and helped key the shutout, as Glendale had just two shots. "We didn't play very well. I think a lot of us were expecting to have a little happier mood [after the game]."
It was the polar opposite for Glendale (3-11-4, 2-9-2 in league), which lost, but was happy with how it played.
"We kept it to three [goals] in one half and zero in another," said Glendale Coach Victor Aquino, whose team lost, 5-0, in its first meeting with the Falcons. "They were happy."
Aquino packed it in and left the Falcons offense with little space to work.
"At practice, I talked to them all about defense," said Aquino, who got nine saves from goalie Ashley Hermosillo and a stellar day defensively from Ashley Aquino. "What we worked on was pushing them to the wings and then, once we did that, stopping the crosses. … The whole idea was pushing them to the wing all day and they'll run out of space.
"If they had played like this every game, it would've been different [this season]."
While the Glendale defense did its part, the offense never had a chance, as a shot by Sofia Rezvani in the 41st minute was the first of the match for the Nitros. Thus, despite a somewhat lax effort, the Falcons defense of Busta, Mallory Carcich and Savannah Rhoads was still at its best for most of the contest.
"Our defense is really strong," Busta said. "I've been happy with how our defense has been playing."
In the 10th minutes, Busta took a pass from Katie Callister out on the wing and blew past three Glendale defenders before crossing in to Worden who made good on a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Worden passed up to Sierra Rhoads who converted a 2-0 lead.
Whitley Boller then intercepted a Glendale goal kick with a header straight to Royer, who blasted in a high shot from roughly 15 yards out in the 18th minute for the final score.
CV still had its share of chances, tallying 22 shots, but the lack of intensity was rather clear.
With the Falcons having already wrapped up their third straight league championship, if simply playing archrival Arcadia in their league finale on Thursday afternoon isn't motivation enough, Crescenta Valley has a chance to do what neither of the previous two champs did. Though both those teams were seen by many — including CIF rankings throughout the season — as higher profile squads, neither was able to emerge from league unbeaten.
But with Tuesday's performance, Schulz is hopeful something will change heading into the playoffs.
"I'm glad we clinched it, but it's a bittersweet thing," Schulz said. "We want to be undefeated and we want to stay undefeated. There shouldn't be a problem getting up for the game.
"We definitely want to win going into playoffs. Something has to switch on with us."