It didn’t take long for Buckeye Verrado’s girls to get the hang of playing soccer in Division II instead of Division III.
The Vipers earned a 2-0 victory over Flagstaff in one of the D-II semifinals on Thursday (Feb. 13) at Phoenix Paradise Valley and advanced to Saturday’s (Feb. 15) title match at Gilbert Campo Verde. Starting time is 10:30 a.m.
Verrado (16-2) will play top-seeded Tucson Catalina Foothills, which defeated No. 5 Tucson Sahuaro 2-1 in Thursday’s late match at PV. Tucson Catalina will be aiming for a fifth straight state title.
“We felt that we were the best team in Division III the last couple of years – just that we didn’t get the results we wanted,’’ said Verrado coach David Hopkinson of semifinal losses to Campo Verde and Goodyear Estrella Foothills in 2013 and 2012, respectively. Both those schools went on to capture the championship.
Verrado defeated Flagstaff with a goal by a sophomore in each half. The first was by Bri Subervi with 24:32 left in the first half and the clincher came on a header by Jasmine Lhotka off a throw-in by Sierra Smith with 18:53 left in the match.
“We knew it would be a close game,’’ Hopkinson said. “They are a good team.
“We didn’t have many chances and we knew we probably wouldn’t, so whatever we had, we had to finish. Fortunately, we were able to do that.’’
One of the first things Hopkinson did after the match was to call his parents. The players shouted affirmatively when he asked them how they did so his mother could hear.
“She (mother) was psyched. She knows how hard we have worked,’’ he said.
Flagstaff had its chances, but Verrado goalkeeper Shea Smith or one of her teammates would prevent the ball from going into the net.
Another thing that helped Verrado, Hopkinson said, was that his team played in the Arizona Soccer Showcase during the final week of December. The event featured many of Arizona’s top teams as well as a few out-of-state representatives.