La Quinta’s Jaylene Manion and Palm Desert’s Alyssa Granados fight for the ball in the 1st half on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 in Palm Desert.
More than rivalry bragging rights were on the line Wednesday night. The games between the girls’ soccer teams at La Quinta and Palm Desert have come to mean much more than that.
With both clubs unbeaten in the Desert Valley League entering the match, the Blackhawks brought a 29-game Desert Valley League unbeaten streak into Palm Desert for a game that could ultimately decide the league champion.
The last time La Quinta lost a league game — Feb. 10, 2012 at Palm Desert.
The Blackhawks extended their streak to 30 games on a second half goal by freshman forward Alexis Garcia, who was playing her first game in the rivalry. La Quinta escaped with a 1-0 win over the Aztecs that should set the stage for the second match between the two teams Feb. 13 at La Quinta.
“Unfortunately, we did everything but score,” Palm Desert head coach Chris Keuilian said, chuckling. “A great individual (play) by Alexis Garcia is the difference. I was really proud of my team, we didn’t get caught up in the rivalry thing, and I thought it was a good showing.”
Now, if both La Quinta and Palm Desert win all their games between now and the next time they play each other, it could be for the league title and the league’s top playoff seed.
Palm Desert would have to win five of six on the road, and La Quinta (14-4-2, 6-0 DVL) would need to remain unblemished while taking everyone’s best shot down the stretch.
“If we want the return trip to La Quinta to mean something,” Keuilian said, “we can’t make a mistake on this trip. This is where our girls are going to have to dig deep, and I think the girls know they played well.”
On Wednesday, Palm Desert (11-3-2, 5-1) won the time of possession and took more shots on goal than La Quinta, but couldn’t manage to get clean looks. One clean shot hit the top of the goal and another narrowly hit off a defender’s foot.
La Quina goalkeeper Arianna Rodriguez took a barrage of shots and made multiple saves on the ground. She left the game hobbling in the second half, only to return for the final stretch.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks couldn’t break through the Palm Desert defense. Finally, at halftime, La Quinta head coach Bob Quattlebaum moved Garcia from the midfield to forward and it paid off.
“We just kept telling them on the sideline and at halftime to slow the ball down and connect passes and everything will be all right,” Quattlebaum said. “And when we did that, it was. If we play our game, we’ll be fine.”
In the 61st minute, Aileen Galicia found Kailee Prescott with a pass streaking down the right side of the field. Prescott charged toward the goal, drew defenders in and fired the ball across the field to Garcia, who took a shot, got her rebound and squeezed her second opportunity past Palm Desert keeper Paige Baker.
That was all La Quinta needed in this one. But will it be enough to remain unbeaten until the next time these two teams play?
Quattlebaum said he expects the squad to continue growing and maturing on the field, and that the Blackhawks will bring more poise the next time.
At least for now, La Quinta can take comfort in the fact that it won this battle.
“The nice thing is we now have this win,” Quattlebaum said. “But they’re a good squad and they’re getting healthy.
“I’m looking forward to the next one.”