Tie suits Spartans fine

Morgan Rittichier was just a pinch of luck away from walking off South Pasadena High's soccer field with a hat trick Friday. Instead, she finished the game scoreless.

Rittichier, a forward for the La Cañada girls' team, hit about everything possible with her shots Friday. Everything except the net. Both sides failed to sneak a ball past the opposing goalies, as the Rio Hondo League game ended in a 0-0 tie.

La Cañada Coach Louie Bilowitz said he couldn't be more pleased with the result, or with how his team played.

"On talent and age alone, [South Pasadena] should have won this game five or six to nothing," said Bilowitz, who had six freshmen play against a Tigers' squad filled with seniority. "Basically, [South Pasadena] had no chances to score this game, and I bet we had 10. We hit posts, we hit everything."

South Pasadena (5-5-4, 1-0-2 in league) had opportunities, just as La Cañada (5-4-1, 1-0-1) did, but was also unable to capitalize. Both defenses and goalkeepers had strong efforts, as Kelsee Beck had five saves for the Tigers and Haley Austin notched four.

Rittichier forced Beck to make three of her five saves and nearly got the best of her. With 13 minutes left in regulation, Rittichier stood at the top of the box and fired a shot to the lower right corner of the net.

"I thought it was going in, but it hit the post and bounced right back at me," Rittichier said. "I was amazed; I thought it was going in — just unlucky, I guess."

Normally, Rittichier would bury a shot like that, but she had arguably the best game of her high-school career despite not getting any breaks, Bilowitz said.

The tie is something the Spartans will take. The team's primary goal-scorer, Megan Siepler, was playing through a pulled quad muscle. She was still valuable Friday, if only as a decoy. The Tigers were forced to guard Siepler closely, but instead of racing behind the opposition's defense as usual, she laid the ball off to Rittichier and let her teammate make the runs.

Both teams had difficulty maintaining possession throughout the game, preferring to make long, hopeful passes down the field instead of staying on the ball. South Pasadena dominated possession in the first half, getting most of its chances. But the Spartans asserted themselves in the second half.

The key was the halftime adjustments. The Spartans clogged up the middle of the field and forced the Tigers to play wide and out of harm's way, Bilowitz said.

"We had tons of opportunities to score, dominated the game; but [we] didn't score — that's just the game of soccer," Bilowitz said.

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