Aspirations for a deep postseason run instead ended with a long trip home for the La Cañada High boys’ soccer team.
The visiting Spartans fell behind by a goal at halftime and never recovered in a 3-0 loss in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division V playoffs at windy Pioneer Valley of Santa Maria.
“We just got back from a 12 1/2-hour ride and this was really difficult,” said Spartans Coach Alex Harrison, whose team left for the roughly 330-mile round trip at 9 a.m. “There are a lot of seniors who can’t believe their season is over right now.”
While the Pac-7 League runner-up Panthers (19-6-1) earned advancement to Tuesday’s second round versus either Garden Grove Santiago or Brentwood, the Spartans, who finished second in the Rio Hondo League, capped their season with a 13-5-5 record.
Along with travel, the conditions were also a challenge for La Cañada.
“We knew the conditions weren’t going to be good, but those 45-mile-an-hour winds were difficult,” Harrison said. “I went into my normal routine before the game, but it was impossible. The cones would fly up and all over. You stick a ball in the middle of the field and it would blow away.”
The Spartans nearly overcame the conditions in the first half as they played with the wind in their faces and had limited offensive opportunities.
Pioneer Valley broke through, though, with a goal in the 39th minute to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
“We didn’t panic or anything,” Harrison said. “We knew we’d have the wind at our back in the second half and would be able to make a move.”
While the Spartans were on the attack in the second half, an opportunistic Panthers squad scored two counter-attack goals, the first from Miguel Padron in the 62nd minute before the squad iced the contest with one final score in the 75th minute.
“We had a lot of good scoring opportunities,” Harrison said. “We had 14 total shots on goal to their 18, so it wasn’t like we didn’t have our looks. Their goalie was their best player and he kept us off the board.”
The final score marked only the second time this year La Cañada’s stout defense has allowed more than two goals scored in a contest.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Harrison said. “We overcame a lot of adversity this year.
“But I’m not going to say this doesn’t hurt, because it does. We haven’t got past the second round in three years and that’s disappointing. We’re a school with a lot tradition in both boys’ and girls’ soccer and we have to perform better.”