Lady Prospectors edge Coconino in Soccer Play-In Match
By Daniel Dullum
Apache Junction traveled to Flagstaff on Jan. 25, braved the winter weather elements, and defeated Coconino 3-2 in the play-in round of the 4A girls soccer playoffs.
It was the first postseason win for Apache Junction in the history of the program. The Lady Prospectors lost 3-1 to Tucson Tanque Verde in the opening round of the 2016 Division IV tournament in their only previous playoff appearance.
“I’m so excited that we’re continuing our season,” AJ goalkeeper Jessica Sigler said. “It’s really exciting to finish the season like this. We’re going to keep going as far as we can.”
The Lady Prospectors (17-4-1 overall, No. 19 4A) travel to Goodyear Tuesday for a 6 p.m. round-of-16 match against undefeated Estrella Foothills (14-0, No. 3 4A).
“We’ve all worked too hard to let it end too soon,” AJHS Coach Norm Hoefer said. “At practice, I said, ‘It’s up to you ladies, are you ready to be done?’ Everyone agreed we weren’t ready to be done, so let’s go prolong our season.”
Mattie McMinn put AJ on the board in the 17th minute and Katy Cafaro made it 2-0 with a tally in the 28th minute.
Rebekah Dial cut the Coconino deficit to 2-1 in the 32nd minute. But two minutes into the second half, Janeya O’Brien scored to extend the Lady Prospectors’ lead to 3-1.
Alyssa Gregg’s goal brought the Panthers to within 3-2, but the remaining 34 minutes were scoreless, and Apache Junction moved on to the state round of 16.
For Coconino (10-7-2 overall, 2-3-1 Grand Canyon Region), it was the Panthers’ first postseason contest since 2012. The Lady Prospectors improved to 17-4-1 overall.
The first full round of the 4A playoffs is on Tuesday, and the quarterfinals are set for Saturday, Feb. 3. The first two rounds are played at top-seed home sites.
The semifinals and championship match will be played at Gilbert Williams Field. Times for the semis at 5 and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and 11:30 a.m. for the championship on Saturday, Feb. 10.
“I think we’re ready,” Cafaro said. “We’re definitely there.”
The Lady Prospectors, ranked No. 19 in the latest AIA 4A Power Poll, defeated Scottsdale Coronado 3-2 Jan. 23 on Senior Night at Davis Field.
In the regular season finale, Katy Cafaro opened the scoring for the Lady Prospectors with her 20th goal of the season in the fifth minute of the first half, with Mattie McMinn getting the assist, her 11th. Five minutes later, Alicia Rochin scored the equalizer for the Dons, tying the game at 1-1.
“It feels real good to win on Senior Night, and our goal was always to win 10 in region,” McMinn said. “We had a few slip-ups last week, but we’re back in it now and it means a lot to make playoffs.
“We have to realize that even though we’re on a winning streak, we can make simple mistakes and teams can beat us when we deserve to win. So it puts it in perspective that need to go in, knowing we need to play tough and focus on fundamentals.”
Regan Rose tallied for AJ in the 16th minute, putting the Lady Prospectors ahead to stay at 2-1. Trinity Izbicki made it 3-1 for AJ in the 29th minute. Cafaro assisted on both goals.
“In the second half, (Coronado) was passing the ball around and we came out flat,” Cafaro said. “That’s OK because we had a hard time conversing tonight. I think we got disconnected, and we weren’t talking as much. So we made it hard on ourselves. Once we started talking more, we adjusted just fine.”
Coconino’s Panthers (2-3-1 Grand Canyon Region) finished their season 10-7-2 overall.
“This was great for the seniors, but we really would have liked to have had the region title to go with it,” Hoefer said.
Photo: AJHS senior forward Trinity Izbicki