By Alan der OHANNESSIAN
The Lady Falcons soccer team hung tough to beat San Luis Obispo 1-0 on Thursday in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs. Seinor forward Sierra Rhoads scored the game’s only goal.The Falcons next play at Pasadena Poly in the second round on Tuesday.
The Tigers tested the Falcons in a tense match from the beginning.
“It wasn’t pretty, we finished one, that’s all we needed,” said head coach Jorden Schulz.
The Falcons had good offensive pressure in the first half, as Rhoads had a shot 25 yards away, but it sailed wide just above the top bar.
The coaching staff was keeping the pressure on the players to take their game to another level. Eventually, the Falcons scored, only to be disallowed due to offside in the 30th minute of the first half. However, the Falcons showed their resiliency as they scored two minutes later.
Midfielder Tiffany Austin played a pass to teammate Rhoads inside the 10 yards. She dribbled past the defender and lobbed it over the goalkeeper, Lilly McCann, to put the Falcons in the lead.
The coaching staff echoed voices of encouragement. Rhoads was humble afterward.
“I couldn’t have done it without the assist from Tiffany,” she said. “When my teammates play well, I play well.”
The Falcons defense was tested only once during the first half.
San Luis Obispo midfielder Lauren Hutkin had a free kick, however goalkeeper Emily Johnston dived to save it.
During the halftime break, Coach Schulz told players to pick the energy.
“Game intensity, they needed to pick it up,” she said afterward.
But it was the opposite of what took place during the second half.
“[The Tigers] started to step hard,” said Rhoads. “We’re playing more defensively.”
Tigers midfielder Kelsey Harper played a cross pass inside the 15 yards, but the Falcons defense managed to intercept it. The attack put the coaching staff on high alert, as they called for CV to close the gaps.
But Obispo continued with their relentless pressure. Lauren Hutkin received a pass inside the 12 yards, but substitute CV keeper Samantha Lizer kept the ball away from the net with her feet.
San Luis Obispo was awarded a penalty shot in the dying minutes of the match.
The Falcons were fortunate as Brady Candaele missed the penalty shot. All of the other members put their hands behind their head in disbelief as if it was the Tigers’ last opportunity to tie the game.
Despite the upheavals on the defensive end, Rhoads was satisfied with the team’s defensive effort.
“Overall, we held our ground, we did our job,” she said.
However, she remained concerned about the ability of the team to stay focused.
“We’ve got to play strong till the whistle blows.”