Buckeye Verrado’s girls thawed out enough on Monday night (Jan. 14) to overcome a one-goal halftime deficit for a 3-2 soccer victory over visiting Avondale Agua Fria.
The match was played in temperatures that hovered at 40 or a bit below, but felt much colder with a slight breeze going. Despite the chilly conditions, the teams played to their power-seedings levels, Verrado at No. 1 in Division III and Agua Fria at No. 2 in Division II.
Kristen Miller gave Verrado (11-2) a 1-0 lead with a goal with 8 ½ minutes gone in the first half.
Agua Fria (11-4-1) tied it with 15:33 left in the first half on a goal by Taylor Layton, and took a 2-1 lead about a minute later on a score by Bianca Olivas.
Verrado missed just wide left with about 10 minutes left and had to settle for a one-goal deficit at the half.
Asked what advice he had for his team at the break, Verrado coach David Hopkinson said, “That we needed to finish our plays. We weren’t doing much of that in the first half.’’
The Vipers’ spacing improved and they controlled the ball better in the second half.
They barely missed tying up the match after a corner kick at 35:20, and finally got the equalizer when Kelly Smith scored off a deflection following a long throw-in. Smith narrowly missed getting her second goal less than a minute later.
At the 15:41 mark, soccer became pinball.
Celeste Cunningham booted a nice, high free kick toward the goal. The Agua Fria keeper deflected the ball, it caromed off the left post and back into the net for a 3-2 Verrado lead.
It was enough for the Vipers, who were able to hold on. Agua Fria’s best chance to tie it back up came with 6:37 left, but the Verrado keeper kept the ball out of the net.
“They (Agua Fria) are a good team. They might not lose again until the playoffs or maybe not even then,’’ Hopkinson said. “They play a physical game and we knew we would have to play well to beat them.’’
Verrado was slowed with injuries to two key players. Adrianna Orozco was on crutches and Alyssa Emig tweaked an Achilles in the first half that had been bothering her and saw little action thereafter.
The Vipers now play back-to-back matches against Buckeye, at home on Tuesday (Jan. 15) and away on Friday (Jan. 18).
Agua Fria has two matches against Goodyear Desert Edge, on Wednesday (Jan. 16) at home and Saturday (Jan. 19) on the road, with a match at Laveen Betty H. Fairfax in between on Thursday (Jan. 17).