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CV bound for final ... again

Soccer: Southern Section DIV champs upend Millikan, 2-1, to advance to regional final.

March 08, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com

LONG BEACH — Whether trading fire in the first half or putting it out in the second, the still-undefeated Crescenta Valley High boys' soccer team was in vintage playoff form on both sides of the field in a 2-1 win against top-seeded Long Beach Millikan in the Southern California Regional Division I semifinals on Thursday afternoon.

Crescenta Valley senior forward Pavle Atanackovic scored a goal and assisted on one by Eric Keshishian, both in the first half, and Nick Ruiz saved two shots that were as good as goals for the host Rams to key another stalwart second-half defensive effort in a Falcons postseason littered with them.

"They figure out ways to finish things, they get things done," said Crescenta Valley Coach Grant Clark, whose team will make its first regional title-game appearance against Paramount at 6 p.m. Saturday at Warren High. "These guys, they just work until the very end. I don't know who taught them to do that, but I'm glad they did."

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The fifth-seeded Falcons (23-0-6), who opened the regional Tuesday with a 1-0 road win against fourth-seeded Buchanan of Clovis, once again pitched a second-half shutout to protect a one-goal lead and did so under the intense pressure of a desperate Division I champion that threw attacks in waves at the Falcons' goal over the tense final 20 minutes.

But the Rams' best chances of the second half came just before that on a pair of shots from inside 10 yards that Ruiz made deft stops on.

With 22 minutes left, a ball that appeared to have been cleared from the Falcons' goal box was suddenly redirected back to Rams midfielder Jordy Silva, who was alone in the box with Ruiz with no other player within 10 yards. Silva turned and fired without hesitation, but his point-blank shot was right at Ruiz, who made a reflex save to poke the ball away.

Two minutes later, Millikan's Jaime Salazar got a clear look from the elbow of the penalty box, but Ruiz stretched out to make a deflection with his fingertips.

"I had that mental breakdown in the first half when I let that [goal] in, so I felt like I owed it to my team to get those two saves," said Ruiz in reference to a first-half goal by Salazar that squirted between Ruiz and the left post to put the Falcons in a 1-0 hole. "Those were great shots. I just tried to get a hand to it and luckily I could."

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