Lady Wolves miss playoffs despite victory
Estrella Foothills took care of its business on the final day of the regular season Jan. 29, but the Lady Wolves’ efforts still weren’t enough to secure them a place in the Division III state soccer playoffs.
Estrella beat Glendale Preparatory Academy, 5-1, to finish the season with an 8-4 record, but when the brackets were announced on Friday, the Lady Wolves found themselves one position out of the tournament. Their rating was a 3.0885, while Tucson Pueblo Magnet (6-5-1), which received the No. 16 seed, had a rating of 3.1007.
“We really thought we had a chance to slip into that 16th spot, and to find out we were 17th by such a small margin, I think it was disappointing for the girls because I thought they had a great season,” coach Kathy Fox said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t make it in.”
Adding to the disappointment for Estrella was that it was playing some of its best soccer of the season down the stretch. The Lady Wolves had won five in a row, outscoring their opponents 22-3 during that stretch, and eight of their last 10. Included in that was a victory over Fountain Hills during the Winter Soccer Desert Classic tournament at Phoenix Country Day. Fountain Hills is the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
“It’s frustrating because we knew any team we played [in the playoffs] we had a chance to win, we just needed to get into the tournament,” Fox said. “To get bumped out at the last second just stinks. I really thought if we could have gotten in we could have gone pretty far.”
Of Estrella’s four losses, two were by one goal and the others were by two. The Lady Wolves blew a 3-1 halftime lead against Phoenix Northwest Christian on Dec. 16, a game in which Fox said a few calls didn’t go the way of the Lady Wolves.
Estrella had everything going for it Jan. 29 against Glendale Prep, except for maybe four or five more goals. The Lady Wolves peppered the Glendale Prep defense with shots all night, but too many were off target.
“That was really frustrating,” senior Shay Martinez said.
The Lady Wolves did plenty in order to win the game though, and despite missing a lot of opportunities, they didn’t waste any time getting the lead. Martinez opened the scoring in the third minute, streaking down the right side and powering home a shot from 15 yards away.
“I was hoping to score on senior night, but everyone was so nervous because it was senior night and they wanted to score,” Martinez said. “I think that helped calm everyone down.”
In the sixth minute, Estrella doubled its lead, as the Godfrey sisters connected on a beautiful goal. Taylor, dribbling down the right wing, crossed it perfectly to the goal mouth where Ashley just had to put a foot on it and redirect it into the back of the net.
“That was the sweetest goal ever,” said Ashley, a senior. “I thought she was going to take it, but then it came in and I was there. It was a good way to end the year.”
Ashley finished with two goals, also scoring late in the second half.
The two early goals were not surprising to Fox, as that’s when Estrella is at its best.
“That’s how our team is, we’re really good once we get those first few, they relax and a few more come,” she said. “The longer we wait, that’s not good for us. So we always try to stress get some quick, get the other team off guard, get them deflated and it helps our momentum that much more.”
Glendale got one back with 15:14 remaining in the first half, but Estrella responded just 1 minute, 34 seconds later when freshman Veronica Valencia scored on a shot from 25 yards away, giving Estrella a 3-1 halftime lead.
The Lady Wolves got another senior goal with just 14:01 remaining in the contest when defender Courtney Mowbray scored her first goal of the season, and first since her freshman year. She booted a free kick from 35 yards away that went over the head of the leaping Glendale goalkeeper and just underneath the crossbar. Mowbray said it was probably the nicest goal she’s had in her life.
“I was super nervous, I thought I was going to choke because I was like, I have to score, this is my only chance,” Mowbray said. “It’s what I’ve been hoping for all year, my senior goal.”
Ashley Godfrey’s second goal came with 1:15 remaining, putting the finishing touches on the win. Three of the eight seniors wound up scoring on senior night.
“We were trying to get all the seniors to score,” Fox said. “We had a really good group this year, good leadership.
Despite the misfortune of missing the playoffs, Fox relayed a positive message to her team on Friday after the bracket came out.
“We talked to them and told them not getting into the playoffs wasn’t going to define the season we had,” Fox said. “They really did have a great season. After they got through the shock of being upset and the tears, they were able to reflect back on the good games we had, and not only that, but the great times the team had off the field.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.