Rutkowski Goal Gives AJ 14th Win of Season
By Daniel Dullum
Nearly midway through the second half of Apache Junction’s girls soccer match against Phoenix Washington on Jan. 11, the Lady Prospectors’ Emily Rutkowski was tripped and awarded a penalty kick.
As Emily prepared for the PK, the lights went out at Davis Field. After a nearly 35-minute delay, the lights were back. Emily’s long-awaited PK attempt sailed wide right.
But the junior forward made up for it later, scoring AJ’s go-ahead goal in the 36th minute of the second half, giving the Lady Prospectors a 2-1 4A Black Canyon Region victory over Washington.
“It was stressful out there,” Emily said. “Honestly I shouldn’t have missed that PK, but that light delay really got to me. I thought about it and that really messes with my head.
“Any of us can make those PK’s. It’s just the fact that I was thinking about it too much. I got it back, and that’s all that matters.”
AJ Coach Norm Hoefer said, “It was a lot tighter game than we were hoping for. The girls played well, but I think we got a little fancy at times and we needed to get back to the simple soccer that got us the wins. (Washington) was good enough that we couldn’t just do that.
“But the girls fought. That’s a good thing about these girls – they have internal fortitude and they want to win.”
The Rams (4-5 overall, 1-1 region) took a 1-0 lead into the halftime break. But Mattie McMinn’s goal on a free kick provided AJ with the equalizer four minutes into the second half.
“At halftime, I was freaking out a little because we lost to Washington last year,” Emily Rutkowski said. “We should not lose to them this year because we have such a better team this year, and I expect a lot out of us.”
Emily Rutkowski’s ninth goal of the season was scored on an assist from leading scorer Katy Cafaro.
“Katy can always cross the ball beautiful, and she just crossed the ball to me. The defender and I were battling and I just got a toe on it, so it worked out pretty well,” Emily said.
“I would have been really hard on myself if I wouldn’t have gotten that goal,” she continued. “I kept thinking, ‘Emily, the team is depending on you right now.’ I’m team captain and I love this team so much and we work so hard together. I felt like I had to do it.”
As of Jan. 12, the Lady Prospectors (14-2-1 overall) are in first place in the region and ranked No. 9 in the AIA 4A Power Poll. Their next match is Tuesday, when AJ hosts San Tan Valley Combs.
“We need to stay right where we are,” Hoefer said. “Even if we stay at 9, we would host in the play-in round. We’d like to get to 8, but even if we win all of our games, I don’t think we’d get above 7, because the top teams are all playing each other.”