LA CRESCENTA — Thanks to two first-half goals, the Crescenta Valley High girls’ soccer team kept its Pacific League title and postseason hopes alive at the expense of both endeavors for visiting Burroughs.
The Falcons built a strong lead, held on midway and then added insurance late in a 3-1 victory over the Indians on Monday afternoon on senior day.
PHOTOS: Crescenta Valley vs. Burroughs girls' soccer
With the victory, Crescenta Valley improved to 7-7-1 overall and 7-2-1 in league, which is good for second behind Arcadia (11-5-1, 10-0) with four league matches remaining.
Burroughs dropped to 7-8-2, 6-2-2 and into third in league.
“I don’t know if there is any difference between now and the first time we played Burroughs,” Falcons Coach Jorden Schulz said in reference to the Indians’ 1-0 home victory on Jan. 13. “The first we played them, I thought it was a harder-fought game. This time, we just needed to get a win and it really helped to get that offense early.”
Crescenta Valley scored the match-winning goal in the 34th minute thanks to an all-around great effort from junior Grace Keller, who stole possession at midfield and laced a sharp through ball to streaking teammate Ani Hemelians, who outran two flanking Burroughs defenders.
Hemelians took possession at the 30, dribbled into the 18 and rifled a 15-yard goal into the right corner of the net for a score that put the Falcons up, 2-0.
“We had to come ready and mentally prepared to win this game,” Hemelians said. “We couldn’t lose today. This was a must-win. Those two goals turned around this game.”
Crescenta Valley opened the scoring in the 25th minute when junior Courtney Iannello banged home a goal from eight yards off a cross from sophomore Izzy Costilla.
For Iannello, the goal was quick redemption as the midfielder blocked a clearout attempt from Indians goalie Miranda Kaekul off her shins in the 24th minute and had a wide open net. Iannello fired a right-to-left shot that crossed the face of the goal, but never penetrated the goalline before going out of play.
For good measure, the Falcons iced the game in the 77th minute when Keller and Hemelians paired up for another goal.
This time the duo adroitly played a corner kick short as Hemelians tapped to Keller, who rifled a shot from near the sideline for a brilliant goal past a block attempt of goalie Taylor Bailey that put the Falcons ahead, 3-1.
“I think Burroughs was just off guard,” Hemelians said. “Grace was right next to me and I said, ‘Here Grace.’ No one was marking her and I knew she could get that in.”
Keller’s goal helped stem the tide of a late Indians surge that began when senior forward Emma Pineiro knocked in a rebound goal off a free kick in the 61st minute to bring the score to 2-1.
Indians sophomore halfback Noelle Garcia lobbed a 35-yard free kick that was initially blocked by diving Falcons goalie Emily Johnston. Yet, with Johnston on the floor, Pineiro nudged in a putback score.
Pineiro then nearly secured the equalizer in the 75th minute when the forward took possession on a breakaway and headed a 10-yard shot past Johnston that appeared destined to score, but was knocked out of play by a Falcons defender at the last second.
“I was really proud of the effort from our girls out there,” Indians Coach Brady Riggs said. “We’re just really beat up and it’s going to be an interesting last few games for us.”
Riggs was without the services for top-scoring junior forward Danielle Tilton, who is likely done for the season with an undisclosed leg injury. Tilton is due for an MRI soon.
Riggs was also forced to rotate goalies as Bailey was playing through shoulder injuries and Kaekul had hamstring issues.
“I had Emma out there playing on one leg and we had substitutions all over the field,” Riggs said. “Plus, it’s just different playing without [Tilton]. She just brings an energy that was lacking today.
“But even with all that and some other injuries we were in this game.”