NORTHEAST GLENDALE — Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's soccer team was hardly overly dejected after its 1-0 victory over Crescenta Valley on Friday night at Glendale Community College.
But then again, the Tologs, ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN HS and the defending CIF Southern Section Division I champions, were hardly overjoyed, either.
"Definitely not upset, we came out with a win," said Tologs junior defender Sarah Teegarden, who was central in Sacred Heart (2-0) earning its second consecutive shutout to start the season. "But we need [to see] improvement."
In stark contrast, Crescenta Valley (1-3) came away with a loss, but a far more upbeat outlook.
"We obviously knew how good Sacred Heart was, we knew what we were facing," said second-year Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team lost to the Tologs, 3-0, in last season's meeting. "[The Falcons] came out strong, they came out ready.
"This was the best game we've played in the last two years. … Overall, I'm absolutely pleased."
The difference came with just over 33 minutes gone in the first half, when Sacred Heart midfielder Breeana Koemans, a multiple-time All-Area and All-CIF standout, turned in a dazzling play, stopping, turning and letting fly on a beautiful 30-yard shot that ducked just under the crossbar and over Falcons goalie Jessi Magallon's head for the early game-winner.
"I took a shot and the keeper was off her line," said Koemans, who also had two goals in the Tologs' season-opening 5-0 win over Maranatha. "Just took a touch, picked up my head and took a shot."
For much of the match, though, the story was Sacred Heart possession and Crescenta Valley physicality.
"I think to beat a more skilled team, which [the Tologs] are, you have to be physical," Schulz said.
The Tologs, after an evenly played first eight minutes or so of the match, controlled possession for most of the match, but seemed to always come up one touch short on their opportunities.
"I think that's definitely a result of having those starters out," said Teegarden of the team being a bit off with five of its starters — Katie Johnson, Tera Trujillo, Krista Meaglia, Katelyn Almeida and Alexa Montgomery — on the bench for various reasons.
Meanwhile, the Falcons' physical play, which saw them garner a vast majority of the foul calls against them, also played a large part in the tempo of the match.
"We knew they were gonna be physical, but I think we were taken a bit aback by it," Teegarden said.
Nonetheless, the Tologs held their own in large part, with junior forward Kayla Mills leading the way in the physical department for the Tologs and also leading the offensive charge often times. During a scoreless second half, her physical battles with fellow All-CIF and All-Area honoree Mallory Carcich were emblematic of how the game went, as Sacred Heart found itself largely in its attacking third, but CV made a stand every time.
Still, Mills, Koemans and freshman forward Hanna Armendariz had their chances. Armendariz had two spectacular chances, in fact.
She had a breakaway on the right wing and made a splendid, low, crossing shot that Magallon had to dive to her right to stop. Magallon couldn't keep hold of the ball, but senior defender Dani Busta quickly booted the ball away from an exposed net. Not long after, Armendariz was coming down the center of the field with a defender on her inside. Armendariz spun beautifully inside, keeping possession before firing off a low shot that Magallon saved.
Magallon finished with six saves, while Sacred Heart counterpart Lindsey Espe had four saves in her shutout bid.
Teegarden, along with backline mates Lauren Torres, Miranda Saldivar and Kendall Sandoval were borderline impenetrable, but CV's defense of Carcich, Busta, Olivia Bird and Sierra Rhoads was also stellar in holding the high-octane Sacred Heart offense relatively in check. The Tologs outshot the Falcons, 12-5.
Crescenta Valley was also dealing with a bit of a makeshift lineup, as it was missing starting forward Sharon Lee and starting defender Sarah Worden, forcing Schulz to put Rhoads, arguably the team's top offensive threat, on the backline, where she plays in club.
"Putting Sierra in the back was kind of a no-brainer," Schulz said. "We knew we weren't gonna have the attack we usually have."
But in the end, Schulz is hoping that, although a win escaped her team, something bigger might have been garnered.
"We finally came into our stride," Schulz said. "I'm hoping this could be our turning point."
For the Tologs, though they believe their best soccer is still in front of them, they still did what they've been doing a lot of over the last few years and that's emerge victorious.
"We put in a good effort," Koemans said. "I think we're just gonna need to play better possession. I think we're just not really synced yet, but we'll get there."