SOUTH PASADENA — While the Rio Hondo League girls' soccer race appears wide open and potentially unpredictable, South Pasadena High bolstered its bid at defending the crown after a 1-0 win over visiting La Canada on Tuesday afternoon at Ray Solari Stadium.
The victory marked the midway point in league play for both the Tigers (6-7-2 overall, 3-0-2 in league) and Spartans (8-3-1, 2-2-1), who meet again in the season finale Feb. 7 at La Cañada.
“We took our one-goal lead for granted a bit in the second half, so I’m happy we got that first-half score,” said Tigers Coach Eva Dixon, whose squad is unbeaten (3-0-2) since she took over for Randy Lilavois in late December.
“We didn’t play too well, but to win when you don’t play your best is also important.”
The Tigers held a 1-0 lead at halftime in 40 minutes of action in which both teams nearly added additional scores.
South Pasadena’s goal came in the 29th minute when a 15-yard right-to-left shot from Tigers junior striker Kelly Brady was batted down by Spartans junior goalie Miranda Dimase-Nordling (five saves).
While Dimase-Nordling stopped Brady’s shot, the subsequent rebound bounced in the vicinity of Brady’s teammate, sophomore Emmy Keenan, who one-timed a point-blank shot that put the Tigers ahead, 1-0.
“I felt like I needed to make that shot,” Keenan said. “It was a good opportunity to score and I had to take advantage.”
South Pasadena nearly added to its total in the 35th minute when Keenan turned into a playmaker and lobbed a cross to sophomore Jackie Mejia, who was positioned directly in front of goal.
Mejia fired a 12-yard shot off the top post and out of play.
In the eighth minute, the Tigers also had another near-make when a header from Jessica Moog was stopped on a one-handed save from Dimase-Nordling.
Even though La Cañada was outshot, 9-4, in the first half, that stat was nearly made irrelevant when Spartans sophomore Cassy Quiring took possession of a loose ball in the Tigers’ box after a free kick, deked goalie Angelique Ulmer (two saves) and barely fired wide by two feet on an open net off a left-to-right shot in the 39th minute.
The shot was one of a few agonizing looks for the Spartans, who missed an equalizer in the 50th minute when a brilliant cross from sophomore Megan Decker glided by two Tigers defenders and just over the head of a slashing Quiring, who was four yards from goal.
La Cañada had a goal taken away in the 11th minute when a steal from Quiring on a failed Tigers clear-out attempt was forwarded to Decker, who bounced a pass to Katrina Davis.
The Spartans junior dribbled a shot from 12 yards passed Ulmer. However, the shot was slow enough for Mejia to chase down and bat out of danger.
“Overall, I’m proud of my girls. To lose the game on a flukey goal on the road against a veteran team is respectable,” La Cañada Coach Louie Bilowitz said.
“We’re a young team that’s been forced to make changes because of injuries. We’re an offensive team that’s had to become a defensive team and we’ll continue to improve.”