Vols soccer team advances through playoffs
KINGMAN – The Elite Eight round of the 2023 Arizona Girls 4A State Soccer playoffs continued on Feburary 18 at Kingman High School when Lee Williams Lady Vols (12-0-1) faced off against Arizona College Prep Lady Knights (10-1-2) from Chandler. The Vols advanced to the second round when they beat Paradise Honors (PH) 1-0 in a close match last week. The Knights punched their ticket to round two when they upset Mohave High School in their first round game.
Vols v Knights
Last Saturday’s game was an evenly matched battle that saw the Vols comeback from a 1-0 deficit to take the match and move on to the Final Four.
“Our girls are mentally strong and prepared. The difference today will depend on which team shows up to play. We’re equal to them in physical strength, so it’s going to come down to who plays the hardest,” said assistant coach Gabe Otero. Head coach Hector Rivera said, “The key for us today is going to be our focus, our energy, and our concentration. I told the girls to execute our game plan and to enjoy themselves.”
The first half was back-and-forth, and the teams looked evenly matched. The Vols seemingly had the upperhand with their ‘kick and go’ style of play, spending more time in the Knight’s side of the field. Despite their aggressive play the Vols were never able to score in the first half. The Vols had their chances, but Knight’s goalie denied the Vols on every shot. A stout Vol defense led by juniors Mya Davis, Abi Harveston, and senior goalie Lauren Nguyen kept the Knights at bay. After a penalty kick during the first half the Vols suffered their only defensive break. Knights legged a ball past the Vols defense and into the net for their only goal of the day. The first half ended with the Vols down one to nothing.
At halftime Otero said, “We’re doing everything we need to do. We have to keep up our defensive energy.”
If the Vols had any apprehension about being down one goal, it didn’t show. The second half started out with both teams aggressive and battling for position. The intensity had kicked up a notch and from the sideline one could see the determination on all of the girls’ faces. Senior Captain Grace Otero scored from 25 yards out over a leaping Knight’s goalie to tie the game at 1-1. The momentum began to swing to the Vols. However, the Knights would not go away quietly. Play on the field intensified with the girls from both teams fighting for position. Pushing, shoving, hard tackles, bodies falling to the ground, dust flying, and yellow cards were being pulled. There were shots on goal from both teams but each of the goalies stood tough and denied all attempts. Until a corner kick by Grace Otero bounced around between the players in front of the goal and landed two steps away from freshman Ellie Divis. Divis booted the ball and it sailed by the Knight’s goalie into the net to put the Vols up by one. For the rest of the match the Vols played a tight defense and didn’t allow the Knights to score again with the Vols winning 2-1.
“This is a tough loss. Our girls did really well. It’s tough to go on the road play in unfamiliar conditions. Credit to Lee Williams, they battled us with great intensity,” said Knights coach Rivera.
Vol’s head coach Chris Selby exclaimed, “Semi-finals, we’re going to the Final Four. It was an evenly matched game. We were practically duplicates out there on the field. It was a battle. I knew the offense would come, and we eventually got that last goal we needed.”
The Vols will continue their playoff march in Phoenix against Tucson’s Salpoint Catholic.
Vols v Paradise Honors (PH)
The teams had just broken a sweat when the game’s one and only goal was scored. It came early in the first half by junior captain Sophia Fottrell. For Fottrell this was her 38th goal of the season, setting a new school record for goals in a single season. “I feel accomplished. I want to score more, of course, but honestly I’m just proud of my team,” said Fottrell.
For the rest of the first half PH was constantly on their heels, as they rarely got the ball across mid-field into Vol territory. PH got three shots on goal in the first half as opposed to Vols’ six. Vols head coach Selby said, “We’re doing well and our defense is dominating.”
Unfortunately, the intensity he was looking for never seem to materialize as his team was shut out in the second half.
The game ended 1-0 in favor of the Vols.
PH coach Bergeron said, “The girls played hard and I’m proud of them. We did our best.”
“Fottrell breaking the record was awesome. I’m really happy for her. Nguyen did great job at goalie and saved a few goals,” said Selby. “We put [junior capitain Gwyn] Ortero on their best player and she absolutely shut her down, and what can I say about Davis? She saved us.”