OAK PARK — Sometimes the other team is just better.
That was the case as the Burroughs High girls' soccer team traveled to Oak Park to take on the undefeated Eagles on Friday in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs.
The Indians dropped the contest, 3-0, with two of Oak Park's goals coming on set pieces.
Entering the opening playoff contest, the Eagles had scored 80 goals in 22 games, compared to just 36 in 21 games for Burroughs.
In a game of lopsided possession, the result could have been much worse for the Indians (8-11-2).
The odds were certainly stacked against the Indians from the get-go. Oak Park went the entire season without registering a notch in the loss column, finishing 18-0-4 overall and taking the Tri-Valley League title with a 9-0-3 record.
The hosts struck the first blow early. In the sixth minute, junior midfielder Katherine Kim drew a foul 25 yards out from goal on the left side of the box. Fellow junior Lauren Bay sent the ensuing kick over the hands of Burroughs goalie Taylor Bailey and just under the crossbar to put the Indians in a hole.
The Eagles' second goal came in the 49th minute off another set piece just outside the 18-yard box. Again, Bay stepped up to the ball, but this time she slid the shot along the ground to the left of the wall and just inside the post.
"It's easy to blame the keeper on a set piece," Burroughs Coach Brady Riggs said. "Then you start blaming the wall; then you start blaming the fact that somebody fouled somebody close enough to have that happen; and then you want to blame the ref. I think maybe you should give the person taking the shot credit."
Linked passes came few and far between for the visitors, as they often opted to clear the ball upfield to a waiting Eagles player. Burroughs managed nothing more than a few brief sniffs at Oak Park's goal and the team's first shot came 32 minutes into the game from Clarissa Yang a few yards outside the box. However, the attempt sailed high over the crossbar.
"When the other team is having a better day than you and they're in your half, you tend to get a little bit kickball happy," Riggs said. "We're working on that in the program, something we're working toward with the younger players and I think we did a better job in the last 15 minutes of trying to link up a little bit."
It took 36 minutes for Burroughs to force opposing goalie Melissa Gutterman into action. The visitors managed to draw a foul and Noelle Garcia's effort from about 40 yards out forced Gutterman into action for one of just two saves.
As they have been for most of the season, the Indians went into the game down a few players, including junior forward Danielle Tilton. To cope with a never-ending run of injuries, Riggs had to bring up a number of junior varsity players. The roster listed 14 underclassmen, several of whom played meaningful minutes Friday, further stacking the odds against Burroughs.
"I'm not a big fan of excuses," Riggs said. "The program has to be deep enough for us to be able to bring in players. We have a great JV team and a really good frosh/soph team."
Two more starters went down in the game, as Brianna Castillo and Leslie Villalta were injured.
"Even today, we just haven't been able to get over the injury bug all year," Riggs said.
The coach was pleased with the way his team held itself together in the first half, despite playing without the ball for much of the first 40 minutes.
"We had the half I was hoping we'd have so we'd stay in the game," Riggs said. "We just couldn't create enough chances and they did a good job on the back."
The loss comes at the end of a difficult final stretch of the season for Burroughs, as it dropped five of its last six games. Riggs called the campaign a success nonetheless, citing the team's first victory over Crescenta Valley in six years and a home win over Burbank.
"I'm always disappointed to send 12 seniors out without a better playoff run, but I can't fault their effort," Riggs said. "It was what it was; we got beat by a better team so we move on for next year."