The La Quinta High School girls’ soccer team stormed the field in celebration Tuesday at Shadow Hills High like the Blackhawks had won a league championship game.
Turns out it could end up being the first of a three-game championship series that may determine the 2022 Desert Empire League title.
La Quinta took the first game, 2-1, Tuesday in a matchup of a former powerhouse program versus the newcomer on the block.
“We’ve been working every practice for this game right here,” said La Quinta’s Iliana Rivera, a junior forward. “To prove that last year wasn’t it, but we’re back.”
The Blackhawks (6-0) won at least a share of eight consecutive league titles, dating back to the 2012-13 season. Shadow Hills broke that streak by winning an outright DEL title last year, outscoring league opponents 52-10, as La Quinta fell to fourth in the league.
La Quinta’s matchups against Shadow Hills were particularly brutal. The Knights (1-1) beat the Blackhawks 8-2 in the first game between the two schools and 3-1 in the second.
“We got smacked last year pretty bad,” said Hailey Printz, a La Quinta senior midfielder. “So, this win means a lot to us.”
La Quinta has now outscored its first six opponents this year by a combined score of 27-8.
Rivera scored the first goal of Tuesday’s game at the 14-minute mark in the first half off a pass from sophomore midfielder Jordyn Werner.
Only moments later, Werner found senior midfielder Tatum Plott, who found the back of the net to give La Quinta a 2-0 lead that stunned the Knights.
That left Shadow Hills scrambling, in the unique position of trailing by two goals. La Quinta adjusted into a defensive formation for the second half yet Janessa Navarro, Shadow Hills' senior forward and last year’s leading scorer, kicked the ball into the net on a rebound to give the Knights a chance in the final minutes.
But that was as close as Shadow Hills got. La Quinta did not allow another shot on goal and the clock eventually ran out.
“This was a very good win for us,” La Quinta head coach Jorge Meza said. “We played a very good team that is very well-coached and we came out with the win. I don’t know if we’re better, but I know that our girls really, really wanted this win.”
It’s still early in the season. Shadow Hills will surely bounce back and is still the favorite to win the DEL. But there was a clear message that the Blackhawks wanted to send Tuesday and that is that La Quinta is serious about taking the league title back.
This was the first of what should be three games that allow the Blackhawks to prove that.
“Last year kind of sucked,” Rivera said, “So, this year we’re here to show that we’re coming back better than ever.”
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and the USA Today Network. Email him at email@example.com and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: La Quinta girls soccer makes big statement with win over Shadow Hills