Victories over Laguna Beach and Diamond Bar propel Falcons to quarterfinals.
By Timithie NORMAN
If there is one thing to be said about the Crescenta Valley boys’ soccer team, it’s this: They work hard for the win.
The Falcons claimed an overtime 3-2 victory over the Laguna Beach Breakers Thursday to advance to the second round of CIF playoffs on Tuesday, when they battled the Diamond Bar Brahmas, emerging with a narrow 1-0 win.
After trailing 2-0 at the half against Laguna Beach, senior forward Pavle Atanackovic knocked two headers into the net just five minutes apart to tie it up 2-2 with 28 minutes left in the game. Regulation time ran out with no further score, so the two teams entered into “golden goal” overtime, when the first goal scored wins the game.
The Falcons drove hard and were awarded a free kick near midfield just a few minutes into the first 10-minute half. Senior Alex Berger placed the ball perfectly and Atanackovic headed it in to complete his third hat trick of the season and win the game 3-2.
“The sun was sort of in my eyes,” Atanackovic said. “I guess it was muscle memory. It just came together.”
The Falcons hit the field again Tuesday to host Diamond Bar, the Hacienda League champions, for a very evenly-matched game that saw both teams’ goalkeepers making save after save. CV’s Nick Ruiz made six saves to keep the Brahmas scoreless.
The ball bounced back and forth over the midfield as the Falcons and Brahmas struggled for offensive control. Crescenta Valley was unable to capitalize on four free kicks in the first half, though twice the ball bounced off the crossbar just high of the net.
Finally, in the 66th minute, junior Pablo Sotillo fed the ball to Atanackovic who beat a Brahma defender in the box and made a shot low and to the left. The Falcons followed with another close call that had both Berger and Atanackovic shooting and rebounding, but Diamond Bar goalkeeper Sean Maddux made the saves to limit CV to just one goal.
“Every time there was a save, the anxiety just went up,” said Head Coach Grant Clark. “In the second half, we made more mental than tactical adjustments. We just needed to calm down.”
The Falcons, a team that saw victory by as many as seven goals in league play, indeed seemed anxious about making a play to the net with balls that sailed over the goal or too long for sprinting forwards. But both coach and players were satisfied with the team’s performance.
“We did just fine,” said Berger. “We didn’t get all the opportunities, but no one gets them all. We got the shutout.”
The Falcons travel to Boyle Heights today, Thursday, at 3 p.m. to face Salesian in the Division IV quarterfinals.