AJ Blanks Combs Twice, Including Championship Game
By Daniel Dullum
After scoring 24 goals in the first two days of the Prospector Gold Cup girls soccer tournament, Apache Junction found the door nearly slammed shut in the championship match on Dec. 30 against San Tan Valley Combs.
AJ broke through late in the first half on a goal by Jaden Minor, goalkeeper Jessica Sigler shut out the Coyotes, and the Lady Prospectors won the title match 1-0.
Safford blanked Queen Creek San Tan Foothills 3-0 in the third place match.
Minor, a freshman forward, broke a scoreless tie in the 36th minute of the first half, taking a feed from Memarie Gallegos.
“I passed the ball to Memarie and then she passed it back and I was debating on whether or not I should shoot. But then I did and it went over the keeper’s head,” Minor said. “It was just amazing. It means a lot to get that goal.”
For the rest of the title match, AJ had numerous scoring opportunities, as Emily Rutkowski, Katy Cafaro and Mattie McMinn each had breakaway chances turned away by Coyotes goalkeeper Makaela Skaggs.
“I thought if we got that first one, things would open up a little bit, but that goal got smaller and smaller!” Hoefer said. “One was enough. Our defense was solid, but we didn’t get many opportunities to score.
“But the girls are playing well. They have faith in each other.”
Combs twice in the tournament, the Lady Prospectors will face the Coyotes one more time in region play (at Combs on Jan. 25).
“(Combs) is going to look at us like, ‘here’s that team again; we’ve lost to them twice.’ That’s definitely a big benefit to us,” Hoefer said. “It’ll be the last game of the season. Hopefully, they won’t be playing for anything and we’ll be playing for everything. It’ll be a good game, that’s for sure.”
TOP 10 RANKING
The Lady Prospectors are ranked No. 9 in the first AIA 4A Power Poll of the season. They travel to Tempe for a non-region contest on Tuesday before starting Black Canyon Region play on Thursday, hosting Phoenix Washington.