LA CRESCENTA — After winning its CIF Southern Section Division IV first-round match Friday afternoon, the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team erased forgettable memories of last season's unexpectedly short-lived playoff run, in which they were upset after winning a program-first Pacific League title.
More importantly, however, the sudden-death goal from Alex Berger that put an end to a nailbiter played on a wet field at Crescenta Valley High put the Falcons into the second round and raises the possibility of a deep playoff run after going undefeated in the Pacific League and winning league yet again.
"We learned a lot from last season," Falcons Coach Kiel McClung said after the 3-2 victory over Diamond Bar. "We learned we need to take it one game at a time, but today we took it one half and one play at a time."
The Falcons will now take on North Torrance, a 0-0 (4-1) victor against La Mirada, on Wednesday at a site to be determined by a coin flip.
Poise would indeed prove to be the biggest catalyst of a match that saw two lead changes and two ties. The Brahmas (12-8-4) did their best to remind the Falcons (14-2-5) of their recent first-round history when they got on the board first in the 26th minute.
Then with the half winding down, Crescenta Valley's Michael Shanazarians scored on a free kick from 12 yards out, setting the stage for what would be a hard fought second half and thrilling finish.
Just as the teams were tied after one half, they were tied after two. Berger's game-winning goal came with 4:30 remaining in the first overtime half, and it happened to be the team's second goal off of a corner kick. Berger, however, did it himself as his ball somehow found its way to the far side of the net.
"There's always that space on the near post," said the captain, who was quickly mobbed by teammates and coaches in celebration. "I was just hoping for a deflection, so one of the other guys could rebound and put it in."
It wasn't the first time the Falcons led in the seesaw affair. With the teams knotted at one goal apiece midway through the second half in regulation, Berger and the Falcons capitalized on another corner kick opportunity. Forward Pavle Atanackovic booted it in to give Crescenta Valley a 2-1 advantage in the 57th minute.
The Brahmas scored with just under six minutes remaining on Neil Ignacio's second goal in the match after the Falcons came close, but failed in delivering an insurance goal in the minutes after their own strike.
"Diamond Bar battled, but our players gave it everything they got," said McClung, whose team goes into the second round having not dropped a match since late-December.