For West Valley Preps
Reeling after three straight losses, Shadow Ridge girls soccer regrouped and earned the biggest win in program history Tuesday night, knocking off Willow Canyon — long the dominant program in Surprise — for the first time.
With 7 minutes left, both teams were battling for possession and Shadow Ridge was continuing to spring a forward loose against Willow Canyon’s backline. And it worked, as they found the defense flat-footed and freshman Bayley Forbis got on the end of the winning goal to beat Willow Canyon 3-2.
Stallions senior Mari Labansat said her team needed to win this game, saying they were ranked No. 21 and did not want to risk not getting into the play-in game.
“We knew we had to win this game and Willow is a team we have never beaten before, so to beat them this game for the playoffs, it just means a lot more than other teams since they are in our district and we have a rivalry going,” she said.
Just two minutes into the first half, the Wildcats were awarded a direct kick about 25 yards out and goal keeper Akela Patterson found the back of the net to take the early 1-0 lead.
Shadow Ridge gained their own momentum with good looks at the goal from junior Alyssa Francia and Forbis. Then the tying goal came on combination play from Morgan Sweeney, who found Forbis. She dished it toLabansat for the put away and the 1-1 tie in the 29th minute.
Sophomore Cassie Sheerin continuously was able to get in behind the Willow Canyon back line of defense. While they set the offsides trap for the Stallions, the speed of the attacking front players made it difficult.
“They ran that trap and tonight is the most we have ever been called off-sides ever in our whole season,” Shadow Ridge head coach John Gray said. “They ran the trap very well and we fell for it a number of times. But we’ve got some fast kids all over the field and got some chances to break through.”
Shadow Ridge soccer opened the second half firing shots at Patterson. Sheerin missed on a shot sent over the cross bar, then Labansat followed, before she took another hit, that forced a big save from Patterson.
Willow Canyon’s star player Allison Veloz took advantage of a through ball, chasing it down and putting a move on a defender. But sophomore Gretchen Kuffel ran alongside her, kicking the ball away and taking her down with a slide tackle. Veloz had a second opportunity on the right side of the field after she was forced wide by two Shadow Ridge defenders and found the back of the net to go-ahead 2-1.
“We put Kuffel on the back line after Piper Stone went down in our fifth game with a broken tibia,” Gray said. “We were fishing around for the right girl and my assistant coach told me she played back there for her club team and she has the speed and you could see she was running her (Veloz) down all night. There were also other girls helping out in the back and it truly was a team effort.”
Gray said the team has had a couple of let downs the past few of games and winning the big one against Willow Canyon gives them some bragging rights. He said shutting down a phenomenal player like Veloz was the team’s goal.
“I told the team if we can stop her and make other girls score, then we have a chance to be successful,” he said.
Less than two minutes later Shadow Ridge answered back with a goal from Sydney McDowell who caught a ball played on the ground into space, took a few touches and put the ball away at the right side of the goal and the game was tied at 2.
Labansat said keeping possession of the ball is her team’s strong suit and said the Stallions just wanted it more than the Wildcats.
“And it showed on the field, we were getting to the ball first and put the ball in the back of the net and we just wanted it more than they did,” she said.
Both teams are now 10-8-1 on the season, with Shadow Ridge soccer on top since they won the head-to-head matchup. Centennial also shares the same region record.
Liberty won the 5A Northwest Region with a 13-4-1 record. The Lions earned a first round bye.
The other three local teams, plus several others, are in the play-in field. Here are Thursday’s games:
5A girls soccer play-in games (All start at 6 p.m.)
#24 Phoenix Sunnyslope at #9 Deer Valley
#23 Kellis at #10 Apollo
#20 Centennial at #13 Buckeye Verrado
#19 Shadow Ridge at #14 Tucson Flowing Wells
#17 Sierra Vista Buena at #16 Willow Canyon (West Valley Preps will cover this game)