SOUTH PASADENA — For the first time since the 2004-05 season, the South Pasadena High girls’ soccer team is the champion of the Rio Hondo League.
All that is left to determine is how big a slice of pie the Tigers own.
By virtue of the team’s 2-2 tie to visiting La Cañada on Tuesday afternoon, the Tigers (13-2-6 overall, 5-0-4 in league) clinched a share of the league crown and find themselves two points ahead of both the Spartans (11-2-4, 4-1-4) and San Marino (9-2-6, 4-1-4) with only Thursday’s league finale remaining.
“We gave up a couple of bad goals and we could have done better, but to go down a goal and get two is good for us,” South Pasadena Coach Randy Lilavois said. “As for league, we control our own destiny and it’s going to come down to Temple City [on Thursday].”
Should South Pasadena lose to Temple City, then a portion of the league title would be available for either the Spartans or Titans or both.
The Spartans created that opportunity in the 60th minute when junior center defender Kara Lankey scored off a corner kick from the southwestern end of the field that spiraled off the back hand of Tigers goalie Angelique Ulmer (eight saves) and into the net.
“We did some very nice things for being a younger, smaller team,” Spartans Coach Louie Bilowitz said. “As far as playing soccer the pretty way, the controlled way, I’m proud of the way my team has improved.”
The tying goal stood despite two shots from South Pasadena forward Kelly Brady over the final two minutes of regulation that were both wide of becoming game-winners.
After a rough few first minutes, the Tigers extended their control of a first half in which they led, 2-1, thanks to the duo of Jessica Moog and Brady.
The pair patted each on the back in both Tigers' scores, first when Brady received a 20-yard pass 25 yards from goal on the western side of the field.
Fox streaked toward the 18 before firing a cross to Moog, who entered the penalty area and buried a 10-footer in the 18th minute that knotted the score at 1.
Nine minutes later, the conditions were identically reversed.
This time, Moog received a long ball on the eastern part of the field and fed a streaking Brady, who scored into the lower right of the net to put the Tigers ahead, 2-1, in the 27th minute.
“It’s a little frustrating to come away with a tie because I felt like we were the better team,” Moog said. “But there’s something about La Cañada and how hard they play. They’re always tough.”
The Spartans struck first in the sixth minute with a hustle goal from forward Megan Decker, who was sent a long ball just as she entered the 18 with a one-on-two defensive disadvantage.
Yet, Decker split her defenders and rifled a shot off Tigers' defender Samantha Figueroa.
The rebound bounced right back to Decker, who fired a goal into the lower right corner to put the Spartans ahead, 1-0.
The Tigers nearly equalized two minutes later on a Spartans whiff on a clear-out attempt deep in the goal area that left a wide open shot for Brady.
Yet, Brady's six-yarder sailed wide right off the outer post and out of play.
Spartans goalie Haley Austin finished with eight saves.