Crescenta Valley girls' soccer overcomes first-round obstacle

LA CRESCENTA — Not since her freshman season had Crescenta Valley High senior Sierra Rhoads experienced a CIF Southern Section playoff victory.

And for most of the Falcons, a playoff win was something they’d never been a part of.

Over the last two years, the first round had been an obstacle Crescenta Valley was unable to overcome.

That changed on Thursday afternoon, as a Rhoads goal in the 33rd minute proved just enough to allow the Falcons to stave off a late-charging San Luis Obispo squad and clear their first-round hurdle to the tune of a 1-0 triumph at Crescenta Valley High in the opening round of the Division III girls’ soccer playoffs.

“It’s been a while,” said Rhoads, who was part of a Falcons squad that advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2010 before a loss to Corona del Mar began a string of three consecutive postseason losses for CV that ended on Thursday.

The win was also the first in the playoffs for Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz, who was an assistant on the 2010 squad.

“Finally,” Schulz said. “I mean, good grief, it’s been three years.”

There wasn’t a whole lot of playoff celebration, however, as Schulz spoke with the media following the game and then had her team running and doing push-ups, as she was hardly pleased with the Falcons’ performance – victory or not.

“This was not a good game for us. We played way too slow, we didn’t have the intensity we should have. We played to their speed,” said Schulz, whose team will face Pasadena Poly in the second round on Tuesday. “We’re gonna play Poly and Poly’s dang good.

“We can’t play the way we did today and beat Poly.”

Poly (17-1-1) won the Prep League title and defeated Placentia Valencia, 5-0, while Crescenta Valley (15-2-2) took second in the Pacific League and defeated a San Luis Obispo squad (14-11-1) that finished third in the PAC 7 League.

The Falcons’ win came after they dodged a bullet in the form of a late SLO penalty kick missing the frame entirely with roughly 10 minutes to play.

SLO was slow to start, however, as the Falcons controlled possession early on, before SLO had a sustained run of possession. Later on, an Olivia Bird free kick was headed in by Rhoads, but called offsides. Still, it signified the Falcons reasserting themselves.

Minutes later, Whitley Boller had a good inside shot saved and not long after, CV got the only goal it would need.

Bird, who keyed the defense along with Sarah Worden, began the sequence with a long pass to a streaking Tiffany Austin, who was making a run along the far sideline. Austin tapped a pass to split a defender and Rhoads took it in stride and popped a shot high inside the high, near post.

“She played a perfect ball,” said Rhoads of Austin. “[The goalie] came out, so I went high and it hit it.”

Crescenta Valley had ample opportunity to likely salt the game away in the second half’s first six minutes, as Rhoads started a dominating span with a shot in the 41st minute. Later on, the Falcons had back-to-back corner kicks followed by a deep throw-in, but Rhoads’ attempt was the only shot taken in the stretch of dominating play.

“If we put one away, I’d be satisfied, but we didn’t,” Schulz said. “I’m trying to instill in them you’re only gonna have a limited number of chances.”

In the first half, SLO had little to no chances, with its three shots all coming on free kicks. Its first shot from the run of play didn’t come until the 49th minute, but it was part of a second half in which it fired off seven shots, many of them coming in a frenzied finish in which a five-Falcon backline still couldn’t fight off attackers.

Overall, at the game’s conclusion, it seemed that the sentiments were rather cut and dry as the Falcons were pleased to be flying on to the second round, but quite aware that a better performance is mandatory if they want to reach the quarterfinals.

“I’m so happy we got past the first round, it’s such a relief to move on,” Bird said. “We definitely have to step it up [against Poly]. But I think we can, we definitely can step up like we have to.”

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