ARCADIA — Despite the Pacific League crown that already resided about their collective brow, the members of the Crescenta Valley High girls' soccer team walked off the field at Arcadia High silent and dejected.
With the hopes of an unprecedented unbeaten league campaign a possibility, the Falcons instead found themselves on the wrong end of a sound, 3-0 defeat to archrival Arcadia for their first league loss.
"When it comes down to it, we got beat," said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz. "They beat us to everything. …They wanted it a lot more."
The game proved to be the polar opposite compared to a 3-0 win over Glendale on Tuesday that clinched the title for the Falcons (12-4-4, 10-1-3). While the Falcons easily won on Tuesday, Schulz was upset with her team's effort and attitude after the game was in hand. On Thursday, while she wasn't singing the Falcons' praises in terms of their effort, how they handled the loss was what she wanted to see.
"I think their reaction was the one they should've had," she said. "They're emotionally responding to us not being undefeated, about this being their last game, about playoffs being next, about us losing to the one team we had to lose to."
That one team, Arcadia (11-6-3, 9-3-2) was led by a hat trick from freshman Bailey Mushisky and played one of its best matches of the season in the rivalry finale.
"Today, they played really well," said Arcadia Coach Paul Miles, whose team lost the rivals' first encounter, 1-0. "Our girls, they stepped up today.
"We did everything we needed to. We played our style."
Which was to the contrary of Crescenta Valley's style, as the Falcons' offense, in particular, its passing rarely got going and its defense looked out of sync at times.
The Falcons, who had their 14-game unbeaten streak snapped, were without defensive starter Dani Busta, reportedly due to illness. Busta's absence as not only a staunch defender, but also as an offensive facilitator didn't help matters. But from the start, Arcadia was a step quicker and Crescenta Valley was always a step away.
Mushisky headed a Rachel Schroeder corner kick inside the far post for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute before Mushisky collided in a heap with CV goalie Allie Woodward and her mark, but remained upright and tapped in a goal on an open net in the 13th minute.
During the first half, all of CV's best opportunities came on long balls, but they were always a touch off.
To start the second half, the Falcons finally seemed to get going, with the likes of Jordan Royer and Sierra Rhoads leading the way. Perhaps the most telling play was a nice cross by Rhoads that ran all the way in front of the Arcadia net until Katie Callister finally took a shot from far out. The shot was saved and the opportunity was there, but had anyone else been closer along the line, a goal was almost a certainty.
With playoff pairings announced Monday and the Falcons guaranteed a home match, Schulz believes her team won't be held back by any negative momentum from Thursday.
"It kinda slaps us back into reality. … I think this is gonna propel us forward instead of drop us down," she said. "Honestly, it kinda feels like we got hit by a bus. But you gotta get up, we've got playoffs now."