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Lady Wolves ousted by Flagstaff in quarters
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 02/08/2017 - 12:00am
Estrella falls 1-0 after beating Seton Catholic 3-2 in 1st round
Estrella Foothills girls soccer team was hoping to take last year’s state semifinal run a step further this season, but the Lady Wolves were cut short of their goal when losing at top-seeded Flagstaff Feb. 4 in the 4A state quarterfinals.
Eighth-seeded Estrella beat No. 9 Chandler Seton Catholic in the opening round, but lost 1-0 at Flagstaff.
Estrella (16-2) fended off Seton Catholic (15-5-1) despite a slow start. The Lady Wolves had trouble connecting passes in the early going, and most of their through balls went a little too far for the forwards.
“I think we were just kind of forcing everything, we weren’t really playing Estrella ball,” Estrella coach Rosie Gonzalez said. “I think we were also adjusting to that team, seeing, how are they going to play? How should we play? Once we got together in the second half, we were able to talk, figure it out, get our main focus, and we had to play to feet.”
Estrella got onto the scoreboard late in the first half, taking advantage of a corner kick. Halee Yeager won the corner with a brilliant individual effort, then sent the corner across the goal mouth. Nobody was there for Estrella, but the clearing attempt by Seton’s defense went right to Estrella’s Veronica Valencia, and she pounded a shot into the top left corner of the net from 20 yards away. The goal came with just 4:01 remaining in the opening half.
“It was a perfect opportunity,” Valencia said. “I knew I had to take it, and I was confident in my shot.”
Gaining the lead in the first half was extremely important, Valencia said.
“Once you get a goal in, you’re able to calm [your team] down, scare [the other team] a bit and our confidence boosts up real quick,” she said.
Estrella added to its lead early in the second half, as Yeager scored a beautiful free-kick goal from 25 yards away. She hit a bending shot that went off the goalkeepers’ fingertips and went in just underneath the crossbar.
“That’s exactly where I wanted it,” Yeager said of the shot. “Coach has us try to make those shots all the time in practice. We have two choices, to do a little flick over, or just take it. I decided to take it.”
Seton responded less than two minutes later to make it 2-1, but Estrella’s confidence wasn’t rattled.
“We like to say, if they score on us or we score on them, it’s 0-0, start fresh, just play as if we’re starting over and there’s 10 minutes left in the game and we’re working hard,” Yeager said.
Estrella got a much-needed insurance goal with 10:25 to play when Anita Moreno scored. Suzanne Duggan hustled to the corner of the field, beating a Seton defender to the ball, then passed it to Moreno near the right post. Moreno spun around as she made a touch on the ball, freeing herself to get in on goal where she was able to slam it home for a 3-1 lead.
“She can turn on you and you don’t know what way she’s going to go because she switches it up so much,” Gonzalez said. “It’s amazing to have a player like that, and even better to have her finish and get that cushion there.”
Seton wasn’t finished, scoring on a penalty kick with 2:42 remaining to make things interesting. The Lady Sentinels were awarded the PK after a foul inside the 18-yard box.
“They said one of our girls was holding that girl down,” Gonzalez said. “With two minutes left, they can get momentum, but we stayed focused and kept pushing.”
Even though Estrella held on against Seton, it couldn’t knock off Flagstaff, suffering just its second defeat all year. Overall, the Lady Wolves scored 116 goals and allowed just nine.
Last year, Estrella made the Division III semifinals, losing to Fountain Hills 3-0.
Casey Pritchard can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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