LA CRESCENTA — Though it's still early in the Pacific League girls' soccer season, leading into Friday's first-place showdown between visiting Burroughs High and Crescenta Valley, the teams had built up plenty of statistical intrigue to bolster the match.
Combining for six wins to no league losses along with a combined 40 goals to just one given up, the Falcons and Indians’ collective body of work had been daunting.
On a cold and windy Friday afternoon at Crescenta Valley, though, the only statistic that mattered was Sierra Rhoads’ goal in the 69th minute, as the senior midfielder’s strike held for a 1-0 victory for the Falcons over the Indians.
“Just get it in and that’s what I did, so I was happy,” said Rhoads of her thoughts when she let fly on a shot after a Katie Callister pass. “This was a huge win.
“We were looking at the stats and we saw they beat Pasadena, 4-0, so we were a little intimidated.
“This is a really important win for our team and gives us momentum going forward.”
The backline of Whitley Boller, Karina Costila, Sarah Worden and Olivia Bird engineered the Falcons’ sixth straight shutout, as Crescenta Valley (7-2-1, 4-0 in league) maintained its first-place league standing with its seventh consecutive win.
Burroughs (6-6-1, 3-1), which was outshot, 17-5, found scoring chances hard to come by, but had a handful of the golden variety and was left wondering what could’ve been had it cashed in.
“Second half, we should’ve done better with our chances,” Indians Coach Eddie Garcia said. “[Crescenta Valley has] got some quality players, not to take anything away from them. They earned it.”
Burroughs played defensively in the opening half, packing the center of the field, and registered just one shot — coming with three minutes left — to six for the Falcons.
“[We] kinda wanted to slow it down a little bit and we did,” Garcia said.
But only seconds into the second half, the Indians had two players slip behind the Falcons’ defense. But with a two-on-none breakaway, Indians senior Brianna Matallana, on the left wing, had her chance perfectly snuffed out by Falcons goalie Samantha Lizer, who sprinted onto the play and slid in to kick the ball out of play.
Two minutes later, Burroughs senior Tatiana Rizzotti booted a free kick from roughly 30 yards out that was saved by Lizer, but not cradled. Burroughs junior Emma Pineiro sprinted on to the rebound, but from just a few yards away, popped a shot over the frame.
Not long after, the Falcons began reasserting themselves, taking over possession and run of play as they’d done in dominant fashion in the first half.
“All and all, I felt very confident in the possession aspect of our game, we just need to score more,” said Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, whose team is vying for a fifth league title in a row.
With momentum in their favor as the second half progressed, the Falcons’ chances grew and grew, with the likes of Grace Keller, Rachel Bird and Ani Hemelians all producing solid shots.
Rhoads, however, wasn’t one of them. And it was noticed by Schulz, who yelled out at one point, “Sierra, just shoot it!” after Rhoads had passed up a shot.
“I was basically focusing more on getting the ball into the forwards,” Rhoads said. “After she yelled at me, I started looking more for shots.”
And she found one in the 69th minute, thanks to the efforts of Callister.
The senior midfielder battled for the ball in the box and kept possession despite the efforts of three Burroughs defenders before passing it out to Rhoads.
“Katie is an unsung player that doesn’t get the recognition she deserves,” Schulz said. “She just does her job and doesn’t say much about it.”
Rhoads then took a shot from just inside the 20-yard-line that found the inside of the high, near post.
“If she hits her shot, they’re on,” Schulz said.
Burroughs had one last gasp when a free kick by Rizzotti led to a Noelle Garcia corner kick, but it was cleared by Callister and eventually led to a counter-attack shot by Tiffany Austin. But Rhoads’ goal was all the Falcons would need.
The teams are set to square off again on Feb. 1.
“Second game ... it’s a whole different story,” Garcia said.