Flintridge Prep girls' soccer has trouble slowing Poly

PASADENA — A second-half scoring spree doomed the Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer team in Wednesday afternoon’s Prep League opener at defending league champion Pasadena Poly.

While the Rebels confounded and shut out the CIF Southern Section Division III top-ranked Panthers for more than a half of action, the last 30 minutes proved difficult for Flintridge Prep, as Poly broke through for a 3-0 win at Babcock Field.

“The unorthodox [defensive] system that we play seems to work for the girls, but when you have someone like [Panthers striker] Noel Askins on the other side, all it takes is one good look. That’s what they bet on,” Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez said. “Once she broke loose and it was 1-0, we had to catch up.”

The USC-bound Askins notched the match-winner for Poly (12-1 overall) in the 52nd minute thanks to a solid effort from junior midfielder Nora Johnson, who stole possession at midfield.

Johnson streaked down the visitor’s sideline before crossing to Askins, who connected on a right-to-left 10-yard shot that came on the 18th of the Panthers’ overall 25 shots.

“It was a relief to get that goal and it felt great. Prep is a very organized team, especially on defense,” said Askins, last year’s All-Area Player of the Year. “They were solid and kept us out of the net until then, so they deserve a lot of credit.”

The goal seemed like an aberration, as the Rebels (4-4-3) again blanked the Panthers for the next 20 minutes, while just missing on their chance to tie on a 30-yard free kick from defender Chelsea Johnson in the 58th minute that required a diving save from Panthers goalie Mia Fernandez (two saves).

“For set pieces, depending on where I am, I just try to help my teammates score by placing a nice ball,” Johnson said. “On that play, I was just close enough where I shot the ball on frame. Chavez has trust in me to take those shots and I almost got it.”

Unfortunately for Johnson and the Rebels, the attempt constituted a third of the entire offense, as Flintridge Prep was held to three shots.

The lack of offense was due in part to the Panthers’ ability to hold the ball on their half and often in the attacking third.

Poly eventually put the game away in the final eight minutes with two goals, the first coming on a back-heel chip shot from junior Kayla Valencia in the 72nd minute on what was the third of a three-shot flurry in which goalie Lauren Stiles batted away the first two attempts.

For Stiles, the sophomore finished with 10 saves and has racked up 24 total saves over the Rebels’ last two matches.

Poly’s Annie Winton then iced the contest in the 77th minute when the sophomore redirected a corner kick from senior midfielder Evan Gancedo for a 12-yard goal, which cemented a 3-0 score.

“We definitely knew going in that it was going to be a really, really hard game. So, when we went out there, we went out with all the energy we could,” Johnson said. “That held them for most of the game.

“Toward the end, we let one in and then one more went in and that was the game.”

If there’s a positive for the Rebels, it’s that they’ll host the Panthers on Feb. 11 at home for the first time in two years after both teams played their matches at the Glendale Sports Complex and South Pasadena High last year.

“It’s going to be at our place. [Poly] complained the year before, they wanted it moved,” Chavez said. “That’s called home field advantage, that’s sports.”

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