LA CAÑADA — For 76 minutes, all that was missing from the La Cañada High girls’ soccer team’s dominating effort versus host and crosstown rival Flintridge Prep was a score.
Spartans senior Brianna Albarian broke a stalemate with a bouncing 30-yard goal in the 77th minute that served as the match-winner in a 1-0 victory Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a hustle goal, but we had several opportunities to score and we didn’t,” Spartans Coach Louie Bilowitz said. “The problem is that this is a very little field. If you look at the regulations for the field, this is what’s recommended for the [junior varsity]. We certainly had our issues.”
The Spartans (8-0), who entered the week ranked sixth in Division III of the CIF Southern Section, outshot the Rebels (4-3-3) by a 26-8 margin, but did not secure the triumph until the last of those shots.
Albarian took possession of a loose ball around midfield and drove into Rebels territory with defenders peeling off rather than confronting the streaking striker.
When Albarian was finally confronted about 30 yards from goal, the senior ripped a shot that flew over the outstretched arms of leaping Flintridge Prep goalie Lauren Stiles and off the crossbar directly down.
The ball hit the ground and bounced backward into goal for the lone score of the match.
“I just dribbled up and it was pretty clear. No one was open so I just decided to go for it and shoot it. I wasn’t really looking to score although I thought that would be cool,” Albarian said. “And then it just miraculously went in.”
Prior to Albarian’s score, it appeared the Spartans were jinxed.
Spartans center defender Olivia Leyva peppered a shot past Stiles in the 71st minute on an attempt created off a corner kick from Albarian. Yet, Leyva’s shot hit off the stomach of Rebels freshman forward Maia Cohen, who was positioned on the right post, and bounced out play.
A minute earlier, the Spartans fired two shots, the first from Olivia Juse and the second from Megan Decker that both required saves from Stiles.
Perhaps the best attempt all match took place in the 59th minute when a corner kick from Rosie Quezada bounced between two defenders to Juse, who chipped a 10-yard shot that was knocked out of play on a spectacular diving stop from Stiles, who finished with 14 saves.
The corner kick was one of nine taken by the Spartans in comparison to none for the Rebels.
“For a while, it was getting really frustrating. I wasn’t sure if we were going to score,” Albarian said. “We just kept on trying.”
The Rebels, whose week only gets tougher with a Prep League opener Wednesday at defending league champion Pasadena Poly, nearly played the role of spoiler in the 65th minute when a 25-yard shot on goal from Katherine Pinney was initially stopped by Spartans goalie Kaitlyn Corrall (three saves), only to have the ball bounce off Corrall’s hands and role toward the net.
Fortunately for the Spartans and Corrall, there wasn’t enough left on the shot as the sophomore goalie turned around and picked up the ball five yards from the goal line.
The Rebels delivered two more good looks at the net, first on a 35-yard direct kick from Chelsea Johnson that sailed just over the net in the 68th minute followed by a Johnson 25-yard free kick that was scooped up by Corrall.
“It wouldn’t have been justice if this were a tie. La Cañada outplayed us,” Flintridge Prep Coach Esteban Chavez said. “But honestly, I was more interested in our play. We needed to play better. We had rust, but so does everyone else. We’re going to need more against Poly.
“The good thing for us is that we were more competitive in the second half and we got some play. Lauren also was great out there and she’s only a freshman. We were also only a few minutes from a tie, so there were some positives.”