A couple chats may have made the difference Friday in the battle between Fountain Hills and Seton Catholic for Division III girls soccer supremacy.
Fountain Hills scored after an unscheduled break in the 40th minute and tallied again in the 42nd minute to defeat Seton, 2-0, in for the D-III title at Campo Verde High School.
Fountain HIlls, which lost to eventual D-III champ Campo Verde in the quarterfinals last year, finished with a 20-3-1 record. The Falcons won their final 11 games and claimed the first girls soccer title in school history. Fountain Hills best finish previously was runner-up in 2008. Seton, which blanked its first three opponents in postseason, ended up 16-3-1 and had its 13-game winning streak broken.
Fountain Hills sophomore Leah Carillo manuevered around a defender after a pass from freshman Erika Yost with 43 seconds left in the first half for a rather stunning goal and finish to the opening half. Carillo's goal came a minute of game time and five to eight minutes of stoppage time after while officials and trainers tended to injured Fountain Hills senior Jess Stricker near Seton's goal box.
Stricker had to be carted off the field and didn't return after taking the worst of a collision with 1:42 left in the first half. That''s when chat No. 1 took place.
"We made sure Jess was OK and then had a little pep talk," Fountain Hills coach Alison Mabery said. "It was about pumping them up and telling them to get a goal."It was huge. We scored one and gave us momentum."
Fountain Hills used the 10-minute hafltime to converse more and reset the agenda for the second half. An early goal happened to be part of the plan.
Yost got free about eight yards out on the left side of the box after Fountain Hills came out challenging Seton quickly in its end. Yost's shot caromed off the far post and in.
Defense did the rest for Fountain Hills as it put the clamps on Seton junior Reggie VanDevender and senior teammate Kelsey Moore. Mabery credited the back line of her lineup for work it did Friday and all season, led by senior defenders Alex Bergner, Stricker and keeper Kahri Smith. Fountain HIlls allowed one goal in the 2014 postseason. That was the first goal of their 5-1 win over Pueblo in the first round.
"Defense is what we focus on most," Mabery said. "We have a good mix of players, and there's great chemistry. Taking this championship back to Fountain Hills feels fantastic."
Seton coach Bianca Jauregui said she thought Fountain Hills was offside on its goal to end the first half, but credited Fountain Hills defense with controlling the Sentinels' top weapons.
"They matched Reggie up," Jauregui said. "She didn't get many chances, a couple maybe. They were rated No. 1 and as it turned out rightfully so."