AJ Earns 4A Non-Region Wins over Greenway, Casa Grande
By Daniel Dullum
It took less than a minute for Apache Junction to take a lead on visiting Casa Grande Union on Dec. 19. The Lady Prospectors scored once more in the second half and blanked the Cougars 2-0 in 4A non-region girls soccer at Davis Field.
The victory came after a one-goal road win at Phoenix Greenway.
“We knew (Casa Grande) would be tough,” AJHS Coach Norm Hoefer said. “We scouted them a little bit last week and we knew they could play some defense. But we also knew they played a high defensive line, so we could play over the top and get Katy (Cafaro) past them.”
Katy Cafaro put the Lady Prospectors (7-2-1 overall) on the board 47 seconds into the first half, scoring on a breakaway after taking a feed from Kaira Landa. It was Cafaro’s 10th goal of the season.
“Kaira played the ball through perfectly, I just took a touch and came in from outside the far post,” Cafaro said. “I was lucky, I thought the goalie was going to make the save, but the ball just slid right under her.
“It was a rush, getting that first goal and getting the team behind you. It’s really nice.”
Hoefer said, “Katy missed almost two weeks, and we weren’t sure how she was going to respond. Against Greenway, I put her in for about 20 minutes, took her out to see how she felt, and kept playing it by ear.
“I think she played 60 minutes tonight, which is a little more than I planned. But it was such a tight, close game that we needed her out there.”
“It was good,” Cafaro said. “It was really nice and I was ready to be back after almost two weeks of not playing. I missed them.
“Physically, I felt just fine. The headaches are gone, and I’m back!”
Jaden Miner added a goal for AJ in the 66th minute on an assist by Kyra Ehrlich. Goalkeeper Jessica Sigler earned her third shutout of the season.
“Jaden’s goal was huge,” Hoefert said. “Now we could relax a little bit.”
Less than a day after traveling to Phoenix Greenway, Hoefer was impressed with how his team handled a difficult back-to-back situation.
“It’s not easy to do, and I’m really proud of the girls,” Hoefer said. “(Greenway) was a battle, and we got back at 9:45, back in school at 6:30 this morning, then come back to work and do what we have to do.”
On Dec. 18, the Lady Prospectors traveled to Greenway and edged the Demons 3-2.
Regan Rose scored the eventual game-winner with her third goal of the season in the 64th minute.
“I went back in in the second half. I wasn’t having a good game,” Rose said. “They crossed the ball across three different defenders. I stepped in front of the girl that was marking me, and when I hit it, it went across another defender and found its way in.
“It was pretty exciting. (Greenway) is a decent team and they were holding us down pretty well. It feels good to come out on top breaking away from a tie.”
Memarie Gallegos opened the scoring for AJ on her sixth goal of the season, a penalty kick in the 17th minute. Emily Rutkowski scored in the 36th minute, her seventh.
“Our chances of going for the championship are really great,” Cafaro said. “I like our chances; 6-1 is a great spot and we’re trying to keep it going. We’re trying to get that home game for the playoffs, and we’re getting there.”
Sigler said, “The playoffs are our goal for the season, and win state if we can.
“I’m very optimistic about this team. I think it’s the best team I’ve been on in four years of soccer.”
“Now, we have a nice week off,” Hoefer said. “And the girls can get away from each other, that’s a big thing. We’ve been practicing for 2 ½ months now, plus the girls play club and see each other constantly and hang out together. They just need a little break from each other, and they come back stronger.”