By David O’CONNOR
Despite holding a home ground advantage, courtesy of a coin-flip win last Friday, the Crescenta Valley High School girls’ soccer team was unable to prevail over the 27th state-ranked La Mirada Matadores in the second round of the Division 4 CIF playoffs on Thursday, losing 3-0.
To put it in perspective what CVHS was up against, the powerful number two seeded La Mirada was riding a 14-game winning streak and netted an incredible 96 goals while compiling a 22-2 season record, including a 10-0 drubbing of Culver City in the first round of the playoffs last Thursday.
The Falcons went toe-to-toe with the Matadores in the opening minutes and took control of field position by stifling La Mirada’s attacking options with grinding defense and uncompromising intensity.
CV’s goalkeeper Sydney Schoeller was kept busy by the visitors, who were winning most of the one-on-one duels due to their superior speed and cohesive teamwork.
The Matadores surged ahead 1-0 in the 25th minute due to a superb passage of play that began with a La Mirada player weaving around a Falcon defender along the right sideline, which enabled her to carry the ball 20 yards before drawing in Schoeller to the left goal post and feeding a pinpoint cross to a teammate who found the left corner of the net.
In the 38th minute, Falcons’ co-captain Grace Keller almost tied up proceedings with a potent 30-yard left foot free-kick that shaved the right side of the goal. The Matadores responded immediately with a breakaway that left their attacker with Schoeller to beat, but the shot came within inches of the goal post.
CV’s head coach Tyraysha Peterson lamented a couple of missed chances in the first half, but acknowledged La Mirada’s approach and speed, which made it difficult for her team to instigate a lot of offensive plays in the second half.
“It’s the number two seed in the division and they’re good, they play confident, they’re very fast and I think we played with a lot of heart,” Peterson said. “We played a very defensive second half, so naturally you’re not going to have the offense. In the first half we had our opportunities, they just didn’t go in.”
Keller and senior Samantha Phinney tried to inspire their teammates in the early stages of the second half with Phinney creating a 25-yard break-away down the left side, but couldn’t capitalize on the small opening. Keller gave Schoeller much needed protection by putting her body on the line by blocking a lethal strike 10 yards out from the net.
The Matadores leaped out to a 2-0 lead in the 66th minute because of an outstanding individual goal by one of their mid-fielders, who took the ball 25 yards down the left side and chipped the ball over Schoeller.
Schoeller praised her team’s defense against a formidable Matadores’ outfit, but felt the Falcons mid-fielders couldn’t provide enough support to their forwards and this was a major reason why their offense lacked penetration.
“We knew coming in that we were going to have to have a strong defense and I think we were able to carry that out. The fact that it was only 3-0 says a lot about our defense and I’m proud of how we played,” said Schoeller.
“A big part of it was just our transition. I don’t think we were able to really push up as a team. Whenever we got the ball up we weren’t able to fully have options and when we got it up to our forwards we just couldn’t get the mid-field support to show for them.”
La Mirada’s skill and endurance allowed them to beat Falcon defenders and deplete their energy, which limited their own attack when given a unique opening.
Two minutes from full-time, the Matadores drilled the final nail in the coffin courtesy of their second goal-scorer, who sliced through a sloppy Falcons mid-field and blasted her second goal past Schoeller.
Schoeller was the standout performer for the Falcons in a nail-biting 3-2 penalty shootout win over Oak Hill Bulldogs on Thursday, Feb. 19 at home in the first round of playoffs. With both sides locked at 0-0 after 20 minutes of golden-goal overtime, both lineups were spread across the 50-yard line as they awaited the tense shootout that was decided by the Falcons’ keeper saving three shots in a row.
This resulted in the Falcons hoisting their match-winner on their shoulders as they chanted, “Sydney, Sydney, Sydney!”
CV finished the season with a 12-9-1 overall record, an 11-3 league record and scored 56 goals and conceded 28 goals.
Coach Peterson felt that the team reached their goals for the season despite a challenging pre-season and is very proud of the girls for leaving it all out on the field.
“In league we did amazingly well, I’m so proud of them,” said Peterson. “This was a really solid season for us.”