LA CAÑADA — On several occasions Tuesday during a nonleague match against Burbank High, the La Cañada girls' soccer team did a good job at exploiting the Bulldogs defense.
The Spartans constantly worked their way behind the Burbank defenders, which resulted in their share of breakaways and scoring opportunities.
However, despite the opportunities, La Cañada couldn't tally a goal throughout most of the first half. The Spartans finally did hit pay dirt with two minutes to go in the opening half and then had a little more luck with two additional goals in the first 21 minutes of the second to post a 3-1 victory against the visiting Bulldogs.
The win is the fifth straight to open the season for the Spartans (5-0), who have a relatively young squad with five seniors.
"We have had some success so far, but we're still not playing to where I think we should be," La Cañada Coach Louie Bilowitz said. "The forwards still haven't learned to make the types of runs that I'm asking for. We are distributing the ball correctly, but they're not anticipating where the ball's going to be and they are just reacting and then it's too late.
"It's going to take awhile, but they are going to get it. I was happy with the result, but not necessarily happy with the way we played today."
With one of his key defenders unable to play Tuesday because of a choir commitment, Burbank Coach Eric Montoya had to switch some players around.
"With that player not there, that was a big, big impact on our team," said Montoya, whose team slipped to 2-1-1. "We played a freshman in her first game and that might have led to a couple of mistakes, like not pushing up when we needed her to push up. But it's learning pains for her and she's only going to learn from that."
The defensive problems for Burbank were apparent early in the first half, as the Spartans had several opportunities to score. In a 10-minute span, La Cañada's Katrina Davis had two solid opportunities to score, but both chances were stuffed by Burbank goalkeeper Allison Tiegs.
It was Tiegs that helped the Bulldogs stay in the game in the first half, as she made eight of her 11 saves in the stanza.
Burbank's Dakota Briseno had two scoring chances in the first half, but a free kick from 23 yards out in the ninth minute sailed over the crossbar and a hard shot from 10 yards out in the 12th minute was saved by Spartans keeper Kristen Becker.
La Cañada was finally able to benefit from all of its work with a goal in the 38th minute. Megan Decker got behind the Burbank defense on the left side, dribbled in on the keeper and powered a shot that beat Tiegs low and to her left.
The Spartans went into the intermission with a 1-0 advantage.
It didn't take long for the Spartans to score in the second half, as a Burbank lapse in defense was exploited by La Cañada. After the Bulldogs failed to clear the ball, Katherine Sheehy took the offering and scored on a shot from 15 yards out in the 45th minute.
Although they didn't generate many scoring chances early in the second half, the Bulldogs did cut the lead in half in the 61st minute. Kira Bochard lofted a shot from 25 yards outside the goal that sailed toward the La Cañada box. Becker was able to go up and just deflect the ball, but it came to rest in the Spartans' net.
"I thought we did play better in that second half," Montoya said. "But we just couldn't finish our chances."
Davis was finally able to get into the scoring action in the 67th minute. On a perfectly placed corner kick from Brianna Albarian, the ball sailed right to Davis, who promptly knocked it in on a header.
"The first time on the little direct kick that we had, I headed it and didn't make it," said Davis, who plays left defense on her club team and is still getting used to playing up top for the Spartans. "I was a little angry after missing that. But the second time I saw the corner kick coming in and I decided to go for it and I was able to make it."
Burbank generated four good scoring chances in the final nine minutes, including a shot by Mireya Gonzalez that rolled along the crossbar and out. But Burbank couldn't make good on any of the opportunities.