BURBANK — With the holiday break over, the Burbank High girls' soccer team had to get back to business quickly in its first game back to start Pacific League play on a positive note as it hosted Pasadena in the league opener for both squads of Bulldogs.
After a scoreless first half that saw the visiting Bulldogs repeatedly threaten, the host Bulldogs finally did get going in the second half to build a two-goal advantage on the way to a 3-1 victory Tuesday afternoon over a determined Pasadena team.
"It was a real slow, slow, slow start," Burbank Coach Eric Montoya said. "I think winter break with the girls not playing [was the cause]; better finish."
Burbank (4-2-1, 1-0) broke through in the 63rd minute for the game's first goal, a header by Burbank senior Michelle Morales. Fellow senior Clarissa Guerrero got it started, sending a corner kick into the throng of players occupying the front of the goal mouth. Burbank's first try at heading the ball home was barely headed off the line by a Pasadena defender, but it did not go far and Morales put her forehead to the ball, sending it into the back of the net for her team's first goal in Pacific League play.
"My teammate headed it to the post and I just saw an opening spot on the right corner and then just headed it in," Morales said.
Less than three minutes later, Burbank got an insurance goal off the foot of Yvette Niwa. The senior hustled to a loose ball deep in the box and tapped it home for a 2-0 advantage with just less than 15 minutes to go.
"I actually don't score much because I'm a defender usually," Niwa said. "Kira [Bochard] made a great run and so it disrupted the play and the ball came through to me. I just touched it; I didn't want to hit it too hard. It was more of a finesse shot than a power one."
However, the two-goal cushion was short-lived as Pasadena (1-6, 0-1) scored less than a minute later.
"We can't fall asleep if we score a goal. That is what happened," Montoya said of the Pasadena quick strike.
The lone Pasadena goal came off a long shot by Samantha Koemans in the 67th minute as the Burbank defense held tough other than the brief letdown.
Montoya singled out his freshman right fullback as a key.
"I've just got to say Melanie Tirado played an awesome game," Montoya said.
Undeterred, Burbank put in another insurance goal to restore the two-goal cushion with 15 minutes left to play. Mireya Gonzalez, one of eight freshmen on the Burbank roster, settled a ball out of the air to her feet and hammered home a low, driving shot just inside the near post to beat the Pasadena goalkeeper and reach the contest's final score of 3-1.
"We were outplayed big time in the first half. They've got [Koemans], who is one of the best players in the league by far," Montoya said. "In the second half I told my girls to step up and play the way [Koemans] was playing. We had to match her in the midfield and we did a better job of that in the second half, which is why we got the result we got."
Despite both teams going scoreless in the first half, it was Pasadena that created several high-quality scoring chances in the game's first 40 minutes. In the 10th minute, Koemans took a free kick from 30 yards out on the left side that would have gone into the upper corner of the goal if Burbank volleyball standout turned first-year varsity goalkeeper Allison Tiegs had not gotten both hands up to bump the ball over the bar and preserve the tie.
Two minutes later, Pasadena defender Allyssa Troy, who narrowly missed a sliding attempt to clear Niwa's second-half goal before it crossed the line, blasted a shot that hit the inside of the far post before rebounding out. The visiting Bulldogs would hit the bar again later in the first half and the teams went into the break scoreless.
Next for Burbank in league action looms perennial power Arcadia. Burbank will host the Apaches, currently ranked No. 8 in CIF-Southern Section Division III, on Friday.
"We've got Arcadia next, which is definitely going to be a good game," Montoya said. "I think if we start playing together and jelling as a team, not worrying about personal stats, but playing as a team, I think we'll go far. I think we can possibly even win the league. Like I said, there are going to be a lot of growing pains."