NEWHALL — Crescenta Valley High boys’ soccer Coach Grant Clark could sense a bit of uneasiness while watching his team protect a late lead.
Throughout the majority of their pool-play match against Granada Hills in the Hart Tournament on Friday, the Falcons had no trouble generating good scoring chances. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities and didn’t protect a slim one-goal lead in the second half.
“We played well, but we never found a way to get that second goal,” Clark said. “We have to put teams away when we get those scoring chances.”
In an earlier pool-play match, Crescenta Valley (8-1-2) posted a 2-0 victory against Valencia Valencia. The Falcons, who finished second in the Pacific League last season, will close out pool-play competition at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against Panorama City.
Crescenta Valley and Granada Hills (5-2-2) each picked up four points Friday. Granada Hills will meet Valencia in its final pool-play match at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. With Crescenta Valley and Granada Hills tying in their head-to-head meeting, should both teams net the same result Saturday morning, a tiebreaker would come down to scoring differential.
The semifinal match will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at The Master’s College.
Things certainly looked promising for the Falcons early in the 70-minute match. Crescenta Valley controlled the tempo and pressured Granada Hills’ defense throughout most of the first half.
The Falcons earned a penalty shot after Granada Hills goalkeeper Kevin Hernandez made a pair of close-up saves in the 13th minute. Hernandez couldn’t gain possession of the ball after making the second save and pulled down Chris Sinani inside the box while Sinani battled for the rebound, warranting a penalty shot.
Winicki then converted on the penalty shot to give the Falcons a 1-0 advantage.
“I didn’t have any butterflies because I like to be in that situation,” Winicki said. “I usually know how to hit the ball.”
Near the midway mark of the second half, the Highlanders began to seize the momentum while pressing for the tying goal.
They created their own break when a Crescenta Valley defender tried to kick the ball back to goalkeeper Chris Mardiroussian, but Leon pounced on the errant pass and directed the ball into the net in the 58th minute.
“When you have a 1-0 lead late in the game, it becomes harder to play the game within your own 18-yard line,” Clark said. “Sometimes, it’s a mistake and you just have to learn from it.”
In the Valencia contest, the Falcons received second-half goals about two minutes apart from Justin Wright and Eric Hartoonian. Matt Ryan and Kevin Ginosian each had an assist.