The Crescenta Valley boys soccer team ended an incredible season with a 2-1 loss to Paramount in the CIF Division I Southern California Regional championship game on Saturday night at Warren High School in Downey.
It was the first loss of the season for Crescenta Valley (23-1-6). The team won the Pacific League championship, the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship and ranked as the No. 2 team in the state by ESPN HS.
First-year coach Grant Clark set the bar pretty high and he’s not quite sure what he can do for an encore. For now, Clark is going to enjoy the moment and the season.
“I’m not really sure how to follow this year,” Clark said. “We have a lot of questions about who’s going to start and where. It’s not going to be the same.”
Crescenta Valley will lose six players to graduation, including Pavle Atanockovic, who scored a school record 39 goals in his senior season and finished with a school record 100 goals over his career.
The Falcons also lose Alex Berger and Salar Hajimirsadeghi to graduation. Hajimirsadeghi scored the lone goal of the game for Crescenta Valley against Paramount in the Southern California Regional championship.
Paramount scored two goals in the first half to take a 2-0 lead. Both goals came in the final 10 minutes of the first half, but Clark said Paramount took control of the game from the opening whistle.
“They pretty much dominated the majority of the game,” Clark said. “They pretty much moved the ball all over the field. You give credit to Paramount. They came out with more intensity.”
Atanockovic, who is headed to UC Irvine to continue his soccer career, scored his 39th goal of the season in the Southern California Regional semifinal against Millikan.
“He’s a special player,” Clark said. “Emotionally, he was a vital guy to have on the field. He’ll be one of those players you can’t replace.”
Clark credits Atanockovic and goalkeeper Nick Ruiz for the unbeaten run Crescenta Valley enjoyed for most of the season.
Ruiz recorded 15 shutouts, including three in the playoffs, for Crescenta Valley. He will return to the team next season.
Clark has a pair of sophomores who he expects will be instrumental in continuing the success of this year’s team. Tony Royer and Brian Ju, both defenders who anchored a stingy backfield that gave up 18 goals in 30 games, will be back.
“We kind of had him all over the field,” Clark said about Royer, who played forward and midfield as well as defensive back. “What a great blessing to have that kid.”
Ju was one of Clark’s more versatile players, who started and came off the bench at various times during the season. He was the team’s most improved player, Clark said.
“He never complained and earned that place to start,” Clark said.
Clark and the Crescenta Valley soccer team have their work cut out next season. Reaching the CIF Southern California Regional will be a lofty goal. Clark said he and his players were disappointed to lose the final game of the Southern California Regional and making a return will take as much luck as skill.
“To end up in that situation, you have to do things right, gotta have things go your way,” Clark said. “But when you look back at it, absolutely it was a great season.”