LA CRESCENTA — Clamping down on the opposing forwards comes with pride for the defensive unit of the Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team.
The Falcons had come close to notching a shutout in several of their previous matches of the young season, but to no avail.
Crescenta Valley saw its defensive crew of Matt Schmutzer, Matthew Bracht and Brian Ju rise to the occasion Thursday afternoon to help the Falcons earn a 2-0 victory in a Westside Tournament home match against Santa Monica.
"We came out with pride and we wanted to get the shutout," said Schmutzer, who chipped in with an assist. "We knew that Santa Monica was dangerous on set pieces and we had to keep going.
"We felt like we could have had some shutouts coming in. Once we had the shutout going [into the second half Thursday], we wanted it that much more."
Crescenta Valley (2-0-2) received a pair of first-half goals from Pavle Atanackovic, who registered 33 goals and helped the Falcons capture their second Pacific League championship in a row en route to being selected the All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year last season.
The Falcons limited Santa Monica (3-1-1) to two shots on goal, both in the first half.
That defensive effort left Crescenta Valley first-year Coach Grant Clark pleased.
"With guys like Matt, Matthew and Brian, they just feel like they can go out there and shut the other team down," said Clark, whose team has allowed one goal per match. "They went out there and stepped up to the challenge.
"I haven't given them that challenge before, but they came through. They take pride in that."
Crescenta Valley goalkeeper Nick Ruiz made two saves and the Falcons then turned to their standout forward in Atanackovic for offensive support.
Shortly after Santa Monica goalkeeper Aziz Yehia stopped Erick Trejo inside the box, Crescenta Valley broke the scoreless deadlock when Atanackovic headed in a direct kick from Schmutzer in the 10th minute.
"I was able to make a good pass and Pavle was there to put it in," Schmutzer said.
Atanackovic then scored off a corner kick from Alex Berger, a reigning All-Area first-team pick. Berger found an open Atanackovic, who tapped the ball past Yehia to complete the scoring in the 29th minute.
Atanackovic nearly recorded the hat trick, but Yehia stopped him in the 65th minute on a point-blank shot.
The Falcons will begin play in the Irvine Team Challenge at 4:45 p.m. today against La Quinta.
Crescenta Valley will resume competition in the Westside Tournament on Tuesday against host Culver City.