Northland Prep has not lost a step
September 15, 2021 by George Werner, AZPreps365
For Arizona’s 11 other high school girls soccer teams that play in the fall, figuring out how to defeat four-time defending state champion Northland Preparatory Academy has monstrified into a Which Blair Project.
Previous 2A Conference champions like Blue Ridge, Chino Valley and Show Low perhaps saw their opening with the graduation of Player of the Year Mia Blair, who led the nation in assists her last two seasons, never lost a game she played in her four years as a Spartan--and never lost a state championship.
But then they had to re-focus on scouting senior Jordan Blair, who has 45 career steals, as well as little sister and fellow midfielder Campbell Blair, who already has 30 steals herself as just a sophomore.
“We need to replace a lot of senior leadership that left, and we're starting to have that happen,” said their father and co-head coach, Michael Blair. “It always does, it's just a matter of when it happens.”
And when it does, no program has yet had an answer for Michael Blair, who has shared Central Region Coach of the Year honors the last four seasons with his co-coach, Keith Hovis, whose daughter Kiarra was 2A Offensive Player of the Year last season before signing to play at New Mexico Highlands University.
Since Blair took over the program five years ago, he has lost one game, by one goal, to Chino Valley in 2018. Since the beginning of this season, he is 6-0, including three shutouts, behind his girls, junior goalie Milly Gindorf’s state-leading 37 saves, and 26 other players. A potential 30th player, second-team all-2A forward Sydney Sventek, moved to Oregon for her senior season.
“It's always great to see the new leadership cultivated and rise to the occasion,” Blair said. Forward Mollie Donahoe, with 20 steals of her own to go with 8 goals, heads a “strong sophomore class with some consistent returners,” he added.
“We expect contributions from everyone, including freshmen, in order to compete for another state championship.”
Foremost among the returners is first-team all-conference defender Rylee Reed. She has accumulated 135 career steals and has scored more than half of her career goals this season--including the game-winner Friday, Sept. 10, in the second half against Snowflake, her second of four opponents at the Show Low Invitational.
Reed is one of three Spartans captains this fall, along with senior Astrid Bell and junior Hannah Petrucci, who have combined for more than 240 steals in their careers. In the Show Low tourney opener Sept. 10 against St. Johns, in which the Spartans actually trailed by a goal at halftime, Bell’s goal 17:30 into the second half sparked the Northland Prep comeback.
But it was Petrucci who booted the game-winner less than 10 minutes later, past Redskins senior Tynesia Little, to edge last year’s state runner-up, 4-3.
Head coach Paul Otto’s daughter, Ellie, scored two of her 17 goals against the Spartans to rank among the top 50 fall players nationally. St. Johns’ only other losses have been to undefeated Chino Valley, twice.
Cougars junior Shea Daniels has allowed just six goals in six games, while combining with freshman goalkeeper Lily Kline for 33 saves. Junior striker Kaitlyn Roskopf’s 15 goals are second only to Otto, while senior midfielder Madison Foster leads 2A with 11 assists to go with as many goals.
The two teams face off Oct. 12 in Flagstaff--a week and a half after Northland Prep returns from Las Vegas and the first of two annual games with Faith Lutheran High School, Nevada’s large school state champion in 2020.
“We love the competition and are excited to play all the games,” said Blair, whose Spartans share the top 2A perch with their Central Region rival. “This year, there are five teams that could legitimately win the state championship.”
Besides the Spartans and Chino Valley, another team of Cougars at Show Low High School has also not yet lost a game, settling for one 3-3 tie in its own tournament, with Payson, Saturday, Sept. 11. Show Low junior Monserrat Cahueque is second in the state with seven assists, while sophomore Mickenzie Kulish has 10 goals for the Cougars.
Vying with Show Low for East Region supremacy is a former fall soccer dynasty, Blue Ridge High School, which has already won at Payson in a 2-0 shutout and has allowed just one goal to go undefeated in conference play.
As Blair pointed out, although his entire team is “on track,” fall high school girls soccer in Arizona “has improved immensely” since 2016, when Foster’s father, Chino Valley head coach Allen Foster, was the last to win a state title before the Spartans.
“We're working on new ways to attack and defend in order to continue growing and developing our players,” he said. “They are very receptive and are progressing well with where we need to be this time of the season.”