LA CRESCENTA — This year's season-opening slate of games against Foothill League competition has begun to feel rather similar to last year's for the Crescenta Valley High girls' soccer team in some ways, namely the offense's struggle to score goals and, by extension, win games.
But whereas stingy defense allowed the Falcons to hang tough against Canyon, Saugus and West Ranch in a pair of one-goal losses and a tie in 2010, even the Falcons' customary strong suit — shutting down opposing offenses — has been largely absent over the first two games of 2011.
Suffering a 3-0 loss to visiting Saugus on Friday, three days after opening the season with a 2-0 loss to West Ranch, the Falcons appear to be off to a slow start again, although last year it didn't prevent the squad from eventually capturing the Pacific League title and making the playoffs.
"I think we're still finding ourselves a little bit, we've got to come out with a lot more intensity," said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team fell behind, 1-0, in the fifth minute and stayed within a goal for the next 46 minutes before the Centurions put the match away with a pair of goals within a 12-minute span of the second half.
Crescenta Valley only got two shot attempts off in the first half, both coming on headers. Dani Busta made a nice run up the right sideline, weaving her dribble between a gauntlet of defenders until finally being stopped, setting up a corner kick by Olivia Bird that was headed just over the goal by Mallory Carcich with seven minutes left in the first half. Moments later, Carcich lofted a free kick from 30 yards out on the right side to Sharon Lee on the far post, but the angle was off on the shot.
Following Stacey Atwater's breakaway goal early in the match, the Falcons played a physical, effective game on defense for the rest of the half, but couldn't seem to channel any aggression into their own offense.
"We need to kind of get over the hump [offensively]," Schulz said. "We had that problem last year, as well. We're continuing to work on it. We've got to figure out how to get the ball up there and how to get numbers up front. Once that happens, we'll start scoring."
Ten minutes into the second half, Crescenta Valley had perhaps its best offensive chance when Sarah Worden curled around the right side of the penalty box and fired a cross into the middle of the goal box. While the pass was at first fumbled around, the ball eventually cleared out to Sierra Rhoads, who got off a shot, but straight at goalkeeper Maddie Hebert.
Less than a minute later, Saugus doubled its lead when a lob pass went to the right side to Emily Orr isolated against a defender and the goalkeeper. Orr made a cut toward the end line and threaded a shot between Falcons goalkeeper Jessi Magallon (three saves) and the left post for a 2-0 lead.
In the 18th minute, Saugus scored again when Monica Allen's throw into the goal box was knocked out but not very far, landing right in front of center back Serena Smith-Banas, who nudged home the up-close shot.
"Props to [West Ranch and Saugus], we've only made a couple of mistakes and they've capitalized on all of them," said Schulz, whose team will host Canyon at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday. "I think literally we've only [allowed] six or seven shots on goal and five of them have scored. We're doing our part. Things are just not happening the way we want them to be happening right now. But that will all turn around and it will pick up."