The La Quinta girls’ soccer team might as well have a bull’s-eye sewn onto its uniforms. The top-ranked team in the CIF-SS Division V poll, the Blackhawks take every team’s best shot each game.
Every team that appears on the opposite sideline wants to be the one to end La Quinta’s Desert Valley League winning streak, which extended Thursday at home.
The Blackhawks knocked off Cathedral City, 2-0, in the latest attempt by an opponent to stop La Quinta from finishing consecutive regular seasons unbeaten in the league. La Quinta has not lost since Dec. 14 — a streak of 14 games.
“There’s always been a target on our back,” La Quinta coach Bob Quattlebaum said. “And this year even more because of the DVL championship last year and then being ranked No. 1. Every team wants to beat No. 1. That’s made the target even bigger.”
The Lions brought a fierce attack, but it wasn’t enough as La Quinta (19-1-1, 11-0 DVL) found the back of the net in each half and put six additional shots on goal that were saved by goalie Alyssa Lopez.
La Quinta striker Brielle Leon scored off a header in the first half, bringing her season total to 26. The school’s all-time leading scorer, she had 26 goals for the Blackhawks a year ago.
Senior midfielder Stephanie Esquivel scored in the second half to secure the win with five minutes remaining. It was her fourth goal of the year.
Offensively, Cathedral City (9-9-3, 4-4-1) got some looks put couldn’t get many shots on goal past a backline that has been the backbone of La Quinta’s success this season. The Blackhawks have shut out 14 opponents this season, including the last four.
“That’s a good team, too,” Quattlebaum said of Cathedral City. “And they’re young. They are very young. They’re almost what we were like two years ago. That’s what they remind me of.”
Despite the loss, Cathedral City can finish in second place by winning the remaining two games on its schedule — against Indio and Palm Springs.
As long as they finish in the top four, the Lions will earn a playoff berth for the first time in six years.
Cathedral City coach Jorge Polanco was encouraged by his squad’s performance, despite the loss.
“If this is the best Division V has and we can keep up with them,” Polanco said, “then we can keep up with any team in Division V.”
For La Quinta, the only thing that stands in the way of another unbeaten regular season in the DVL is Palm Desert on Thursday. Win or lose, the Blackhawks likely will be the top seed in the Division V playoffs and the favorite to win CIF.
It’s a goal the squad fell short of last season, and from taking everyone’s best shot, players believe they are better prepared this time around.
“Every single game we have, we have to come all-out,” said La Quinta’s senior striker Brielle Leon. “CIF is not going to be any different or easier. It’s going to be so much more.”